Theatre

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:54

It’s Partridge Vs. Brady in "The Bardy Bunch"

Who's doesn’t remember The Brady Bunch? Mike Brady who has three sons, marries Carol, who has three daughters, they bring in a live in housekeeper, Alice, and they quickly become one of America’s most beloved families of the 1970’s. We basically watch the kids grow up, getting into all kinds of hijinks along the way, before they finally do what makes the most sense - form a family band. Sure, they're creating a musical unit may have not come from an organic source, rather coming with the task to make a few bucks to replace the silver platter than Jan messed up. Still, the Gang was groovy enough to not only win first prize in the talent contest with their song and dance routine, but their brief musical career gave them a new identity to the show’s viewers that stuck. Oldest brother Greg even attempts a solo career in music as Johnny Bravo after being “recruited” by a record company, only to find out that he wasn’t very good and was only selected because the “jacket fit”, literally. 

 

Enter The Partridge Family, who debuted in homes shortly after The Brady Bunch. A widowed mother along with her five children tour both locally and nationally as a jammin’ rock band - and, yes, they all “play” their own instruments unlike the Brady’s. Leaving us a song per episode, The Partridge Family revolves around sappy love songs whereas the Brady’s dive into the music world is originated most certainly out of necessity and lasts but a couple random episodes. 

 

There is little doubt, The Partridge Family wins the cool prize of the two families. Led by mom on keyboards, Shirley Partridge is an attractive musician who like to wear her shorts high while son Keith is a teenage heartthrob and daughter Laurie is dreamt about by teenage boys all across America. Then there was Danny, a mischievous redhead who badly faked his way up and down the neck of a bass. The family could be found playing music to raise attention to just causes or simply getting their groove on rehearing in the garage.

 

So here’s the question - Brady’s or Partridges? You know it’s come up at one time or another.

 

In “The Bardy Bunch” we get a riotous clash of the two families who step outside of our TV sets to settle this dispute once and for all on the stage. Written by Stephen Garvey, we get a glimpse of the two families as the show begins, just before the Brady kids jump into a lively version of “Keep On” complete with the same cheesy dance moves performed on the TV show. Immediately we get a sense that Olivia Rentaria as Marcia Brady and Sawyer Smith as Greg are going to be entertaining as hell to watch. 

 

Though the story proves to be on the herky-jerky side where ghosts and murders are featured in rapid succession, it doesn’t really detract from the fact that audience members are in for an hour and forty-five minutes of campy fun, similar to The Brady Bunch movies that spoofed the family in the 1990’s. The fun to this show lies in the brilliant character lampooning done by this ultra-talented cast. This, in itself, makes the show a success. However, Garvey doesn’t want to live on camp alone, adding a plethora of Shakespeare references throughout the play, including the forbidden love of Keith, a Partridge, and Marsha, a hated Brady ala Romeo and Juliet. Of course, unlike the young Capulet and Montague, they are first obsessed with each other’s hair. 

 

While Skyler Adams as a hokey, exaggerated Keith Partridge draws continuous laughs throughout the play as the largest player involved, he is joined by a stellar ensemble, each one taking advantage of their ample opportunities. Erin McGrath is well cast as Laurie Partridge, perfectly capturing the blasé nature of the former teen model, while Carol and Mike Brady are wonderfully played by seasoned veterans Cory Goodrich and Stef Tovar, two true talents. Brianna Borger takes on the other head of the household as Shirley Partridge and does a bang up job, bobbing head and all.

 

The play revisits many humorous episode scenarios from both shows and plants a dismissiveness for Jan Brady as the middle child who never seems to get any attention while also portraying Danny Partridge as the calculating business man in a thirteen-year-old body. “The Bardy Bunch” also dishes out a boatload of seventies lingo from calling someone a “real crumb” to Greg calling Laurie a “real groovy chick”. This play is undoubtedly a feast of nostalgia down to its groovy threads. 

 

And with the humor comes the music, which if unfamiliar, is really good! Partridge hits dominate the show (obviously) with a nice selection including “I Woke Up in Love”, “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat”, “I Think I Love You” and the feel good, stand up singalong finale number, “Together We’re Better”.

 

“The Bardy Bunch” is jam-packed with laughs and fun memories for those who grew up watching the two families in action. With so much ugliness going on in the world today, we are given a wonderful escape to kick back and enjoy ourselves if just for an evening.

 

“The Bardy Bunch”, winner of the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Ensemble at the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, is currently being performed at Mercury Theater through November, and hopefully longer. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.MercuryTheater.com or www.TheBardyBunch.com.   

 

Super-duper recommended!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

I absolutely adored Theatre at the Center’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown based on the Pedro Almodvar film of the same name from beginning to end.  Set in the 1980's in a part of uptouching and hilarious upper crust Madrid, "Verge" tells the hilarious and touching story of three women who are literally brought to the edge of sanity by their lovers. 

Cory Goodrich is dynamite in the lead role of commercial actress and singer Pepa who receives a phone message from her cheating lover Ivan that he is breaking up with her just as she discovers that she is pregnant with his child.  At the same time, Summer Naomi Smart is super sexy and funny as Pepa's nervous best friend and unwitting fashion model, Candela, whose boyfriend turns out to be an actual terrorist.

And Hollis Resnik as Ivan's ex-wife, who has actually been committed to an asylum because of Ivan's constant playing around with her mind and heart, is sheer delight in her portrayal of a woman who is still in love with her ex, partly because he keeps stringing her along. 

It’s just a complete and sensational cast assembled for this production.

To continue in praising this cast, Larry Adams is hysterical as Ivan, the wealthy Lothario who tells his son it is not important what you say to women but how you say it and then proceeds to sing "Blah, blah blah" to one woman after another in such a sexy seductive tone that they all drop at his feet.  Ivan also reveals that his secret to keeping women in love with him , even his ex-wife of twenty years who had been driven to madness by his loving is that he loves each woman at a distance "Forever and ever and will not let them out of his thoughts... forever." 

Sadly, the lead of this production, actor, Bernie Yvon, was killed in a car accident about two weeks before the show opened on his way to rehearsal. The performances in this run are dedicated to Bernie, who will certainly be missed in the Chicago theatre community. George Andrew Wolff, who plays the taxi driver and narrator did a great job in Bernie’s stead and had one of the best and funniest Spanish accents in the whole show. 

The set, period costumes and actual taxi driven around during the show were all beautiful, colorful and very interactive for the audience. There are all kinds of fabulous dance numbers and the songs are catchy and cleverly funny, especially “The Microphone” performed wonderfully by Larry Adams and “Model Behavior” where Naomi Smart really gets to show her comedic ability as an actress. There is even a handsome Spanish biker that cruises the stage on his motorcycle. 

Although the 1980's cocktail which helped fuel and then alternately slow down the characters frenetic actions through life was a milkshake made of "gazpacho and Valium", you will not need a Valium to relax and laugh at this wonderful woman driven comedy. I highly recommend seeing this rarely produced hit while it is here! 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana (30 minutes from downtown Chicago) through October 12th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com.  

These nervous women deserve respect!

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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