Here’s the story of a lovely lady…

Many years ago, Sherwood Schwartz and Frank DeVol penned a little ditty that is burned into everyone’s mind:

Here’s the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.

Here’s the story, of a man named Brady,
Who was busy with three boys of his own,
They were four men, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group would somehow form a family.
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.

God, is that burned into my mind. Oh, anyway.

Last night, we went to see “A Very Brady Musical” at Theatre West in Hollywood. This is a musical that asks the question: With all those kids at home, when do Mike and Carol ever have the opportunity to play “Hide the Salami”. Not sure what I mean? Well, I can’t be more specific, after all, this is the Bradys!

A Very Brady Musical” was a creation of the Sherwood Family. Sherwood Schwartz was Executive Producer. The book of the musical was written by Lloyd J. Schwartz (his son), and Hope Juber (his daughter), with music and lyrics by Hope Juber and Laurence Juber (her husband). So this musical really is in the spirit and style of the original, and does feel like an extended episode of the series that was never shown.

The story roughly goes like this. In over 3 years of marriage, Mike and Carol have, ummm, have never consummated their relationship as a result of never having a moment when the kids aren’t in the house. They are singing about this, in a cleverly entitled song called “Euphemisms”, when Cindy overhears them. Of course, being Cindy, she tattles about her parents being upset about something she didn’t understand. It could be groceries (“you be my pickle, I’ll be your jar”), it could automotive (“I’ll be the garage where you park your car”, it could be hot dogs (“you bring the hot dog, I’ll be the bun”), or even lunchmeats (the previously mentioned game of hide the salami). The kids decided they need more information, so Bobby uses his tape recorder to find out. When they play the tape, they hear Mike and Carol swearing and threatening each other (little did they know they were doing a reading for a PTA play, “I Hate Your Guts”). The kids decide their parents are getting a divorce (dun-dun-dun). In order to figure out how to solve the problem, they do what they always do: Ask Alice. She first sings them a song about confidence (“”A cup of confidence, a sprinkle of hope, a dash of experience will help you to cope.”) and gives them the idea to send their parents to Dr. Anonymous, a TV Advice Show.

So, they set out to raise money. Greg has recently acquired his first car, which he is very proud of. He thinks lots of people will want to rent it out. In the song “Greg’s Car”, better known by its key line (“I have a Woody, My woody’s hard to beat”) he sings about his car, and how his Woody has never been used. (No, he doesn’t get the entendre. He’s a Brady). Marcia decides that her skill is dating, and seeing an ad for a service that permits her to date for money, she’s all gung ho. After all, she’s been a cheerleader, and knows how to do the splits, mounts, and dismounts, and once even took on the football team, against her brother’s advice. Jan thinks she’s useless, until Peter comes up with a magic show where he is Peter the Great, and she is Jan… the Jan. As for Bobby and Cindy, they decide to look for money in the sofa cushions. After finding none there, they go to the neighborhood park where a friendly panhandler teaches them a better way to find money: in other people’s pockets (“Seize the Opportunity”). During all this, wheneven ever everyone is out of the house, Mike and Carol attempt to rendevous… but are constantly frustrated (as they say in TFOS: Sex isn’t funny. Frustration, now that’s funny).

Of course, the inevitable happens. Greg is arrested for bank robbery (he drove the getaway car after being seduced by Destiny). Marcia is arrested for prostitution. Peter and Jan are arrested for attempted murder (they used a real saw to cut a man in half). Bobby and Cindy are arrested for theft. All the kids are in jail… and Alice has her day off. Just what are two parents to do, especially given the bail hearing isn’t until the following morning?

In the end, of course, all the situations are resolved happy, with no stains on the permanent records. The kids are happy, Alice is happy, and the parents are, finally, happy. And Jan is happy that Marcia got arrested for prostitution.

The show does a remarkable job of playing off the Brady stereotypes of wholesomeness and cheerfullness, especially in songs like “Groovy Happy Sunshiny Day” or “My Special Recipe”. It also includes loads of references to the original TV series, such as all the stupid things the kids did. Certainly the older folks in the audience, and the folks that grew up with the Bradys in reruns, got the references. It was just a fun shows, not a Broadway experience.

The cast did a very good job with this, especially with the overplaying that is necessary in the Brady universe. Mike and Carol Brady were played by John Cyganæ and Barbara Malloryæ (Lloyd Schwartz’s wife). Cygan was great (and wore the requisite perm); Mallory was strong in the acting department, but weaker in the singing department and looked a bit old for the part. Greg Brady was Elliot Kevin Schwartz (Lloyd Schwartz’s son) was Greg Brady — he was a good actor and a strong singer. Marcia (Marcia, Marcia) was played by Erin Holtæ, who sang and acted very strong, and was a pleasure to watch. The middle kids, Peter and Jan, were played by Justin Meloni and Laura Marion: Meloni was OK, but I really enjoyed watching Marion — both her singing and expressions. The youngest kids were played by Adam Congeræ (who kept reminding me of my daughter’s friend Bobby) and Kelly Stablesæ (a pint-sized actress with Kristen Chenowith talent). Alice was played by Kathy Garrickæ, who was an extremely strong singer. Rounding out the cast, in a variety of character roles, were Roger Cruzæ, Matthew Hoffmanæ, Selah Victoræ, and Claire Partinæ.
[æ: Member of æ Actors Equity]

Theatre West is a black-box theatre. The set consisted primarily of a flat on a turntable: one side was the infamous Brady stairway that represented the house; the other side opened up in various ways to be a street, a hotel room, and the escort service office. Greg’s Woody was another large prop. These were all designed by Joseph M. Altadonna and Daniel Keough (who appears to have been Lisa Marie Presley’s hubby before Michael Jackson), and were quite clever, assisted by Heather Alyse Becker as Property Master and Richard De Siato as Scenic Design/Painter. Lighting was by Yancey Dunham, who had a very funny bit with a spotlight and Jan. Choreography was by Paul Denniston, assisted by Kelly Stables, with Laura Marion and Elliot Kevin Schwartz as Dance Captains. Costumes were by Diana Marion. The production was directed by Lloyd J. Schwartz with musical direction by the Jubers. It was produced by Matthew Hoffman, David P. Johnson, and Bonnie Kalisher. Theatre West is under the direction of John Gallogly.

A Very Brady Musical” continues at Theatre West until July 20.

Next up on the theatre calendar is “Pest Control: The Musical”, described by Native Intelligence as “Imagine Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Little Shop of Horrors. Now, throw in cockroaches, cloak & dagger CIA types, hitmen, a love story and lots of rock, rap and dancing and you’ve got an idea of what you’re in for with Pest Control, the Musical”. It is based on the novel by L.A. crime writer Bill Fitzhugh in which a bug exterminator is mistaken for a hit man and hired to kill a South American dictator. We see this (its final performance) at the NoHo Arts Center today at 3:00pm. Following that is “A Chorus Line” @ Ahmanson Theatre (Sat, 6/28 @ 2pm), and “The Taming of the Shew” (Shakespeare in the Park) on Sun, 6/29 @ 6pm in Hart Park in Santa Clarita. July brings “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Ahmanson Theatre (Sun 7/13 @ 1pm), “Parade” at Neighborhood Playhouse, Palos Verdes (Sat 7/19 @ 8pm), “Looped” at Pasadena Playhouse (Sat 7/26 @ 8pm), and “Singing in the Rain” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (Sat 8/2 @ 2pm). I’m still exploring tickets for “Songs From an Unmade Bed” at Celebration Theatre (perhaps 7/5), as well as the Cal Phil production of the music of Rogers and Hammerstein featuring Suzanna Guzman as mezzo soprano and Kevin Earley as tenor on Sunday July 27 at 2:00p at the Disney Concert Hall.