barbara eden

Your wish has been granted.

“Love Letters,” starring superstars Barbara Eden and Barry Bostwick, makes its way to the stage of the Newberry Opera House for two rare performances Wednesday. Penned by the late A.R. Gurney, “Love Letters” is the mesmerizing Pulitzer Prize finalist that confronts life and love through letter writing.

When talking with Eden, you get the feeling early on that she’s exactly who you’d hope her to be — an extraordinary person and presence. Her work began in theater. As a respected thespian actor, her career is incomparable and varied, her achievements are countless, and her kindness is delightful.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Barbara Eden — in fact, it’s expected. Who wouldn’t love a girl who makes dreams come true with a blink of her eyes?

Eden starred in — and is most famously known for her role in — the iconic 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” the magical tale of a beautiful bottled-up genie who regains her spirted love for life when set free from her genie bottle by astronaut Capt. Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) in her trademark pink genie ensemble after a mere 2,000 years of isolation.

Eden was draped in pink chiffon from her pantaloons to her headdress. She says Jeannie’s costume designer asked her to choose her costume color. Enthusiastically, Eden chose her favorite color: pink. Hot pink.

No one will forget Jeannie’s magical genie bottle and how, in a cloud of smoke and magic, she returned to her bottle-dwelling digs. It might have been a fantasy, but it was famously appealing — and hot and sassy. Eden thinks she has the only remaining original bottle.

If Eden had done nothing before or after “Jeannie,” it would have been enough to secure her place in Hollywood history and in our hearts. But that’s not how it happened.

In addition to Larry Hagman, Eden’s portfolio shines alongside other film and TV contemporaries such as Paul Newman, Tony Randall, Pat Boone and Elvis Presley. “I’ve been blessed to have fine actors work with me. There have been many and I’m so grateful,” Eden said.

Success didn’t come easily.

Eden was encouraged to overcome shyness and step out of her comfort zone and into a bathing suit, but it was like pulling teeth. Crowned Miss San Francisco in 1951, she says she didn’t want to be a beauty contestant — winner or loser. She said she didn’t expect to win but standing in a bathing suit was a good way of learning how to forget oneself.

Eden says we’re all our own worst critics, but for the most part, she likes and appreciates her career choices. Of Jeannie, she said she’s fun, and she’s fun to live with — still.

Eden magnificently balances being a lady and a sex symbol. She’s exquisite and humble. She’s loved by boys and girls, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas — everyone except for the Harper Valley PTA. But hey, not everyone can sashay to Tom T. Hall’s lyrics while socking it to the “Harper Valley PTA.”

Eden shares her successes and accolades with humility, grateful to her chosen vocation and fellow actors. She said she loves Halloween and seeing Jeannie costumes everywhere. But talking with her might lead one to believe that she questions herself as a role model to so many generations.

“Well, thank you,” Eden said. “I’m glad you feel that way. That makes me feel good. I do feel like it when I realize that people like what I’ve done. It’s the best kind of payment an actor can get.”

Eden loves to read. As a child, her mother and aunt read to her until she was old enough to go the library where she read all books penned by L. Frank Baum (“The Wizard of Oz”) and enjoyed books by Pearl S. Buck (“The Good Earth”) and reading about the Wild West.

She loves all food apart from fish. “I’ll eat freshwater fish, but I went fishing too many times with my dad — it was smelly. I’d go home and my mother would cook the fish, but I wouldn’t eat it. I loved going (fishing) with him, though!”

Eden expresses utmost gratitude to all colleagues, especially Jeannie creator, Sidney Sheldon. “I’d like to add, I think the one thing about ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ is that it makes people use their imagination. And oh my, I think we need to use our imaginations.”

Speaking of imaginations, Newberry Opera House is home to imaginations and enchantment, and for two shows, Barbara Eden and Barry Bostwick’s imagination and intelligence will soar through their spoken prose in “Love Letters.”

Corresponding for decades, Melissa and Andrew share common fears and joys as they unite through letter writing. Letter by letter, piece by piece, they create a beautiful arc that spans most of their lifetime. The two-character play has a simple stage, powerful script and remarkable actors.

Celebrity superstar Bostwick is best known for his roles in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the sitcom, “Spin City.” He’s been nominated for — and he has won — numerous awards, including Tony Awards.

Eden said Bostwick is fabulous in his role and so is their chemistry. “I think many can relate to the show. I’ve been told it’s been a refuge for many. “

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is more than a show. It’s magic.

Eden and Bostwick will be performing A.R. Gurney’s tender and comical “Love Letters” 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Newberry Opera House. Tickets and information on an after-the show meet and greet can be found at newberryoperahouse.com or call 803-276-6264.

Halfacre is a Newberry resident.