Jes’ set an’ figur’ on that a short spell.
A frickin’ train wreck. Right?
More like a heapin’ helpin’ of hospitality. That’s what awaits Chicagoland musical theatre patrons at Theatre at the Center through Aug. 10. And while it’s not perfect (no one should be expecting Les Mis) this world premiere is a dadgum bundle of summertime fun.
It’s particularly true for fans fond of the 1962-71 television series who will find a warming piece of nostalgia on the Munster, Ind. stage. Kelly Anne Clark channels Irene Ryan as Granny; Summer Naomi Smart is the perfectly gorgeous tomboy Elly May; John Stemberg is stellar as the dumbfoundedly open-mouthed Cousin Jethro; and Jim Harms picks up where Buddy Ebson left off as the understated Jed.
The musical itself had a complicated path to its premiere July 13. A play written by David Rogers was handed to Chicago composer Gregg Opelka to turn into a musical. Rogers decided to make additional changes to the book, but died before finishing. His daughter, Amanda Rogers, completed the work.
Its opening night result is a whole bunch of the slapstick hijinks Hillbillies aficionados might expect. Greedy local banker Milburn Drysdale (Norm Boucher) and his faithful sidekick, Jane Hathaway (Tina Gluschenker) help settle the Clampett clan in their new rich digs while a couple of con artists (hysterically played by Bernie Yvon and Colette Todd) try to bilk Jed out of his millions. A more complete synopsis may be read here.
A variety of subplots involving this cast of 20 combine to make at least one observer reflect that most sitcoms (including Hillbillies) are 30 minutes for a reason. But while at times the show drags, that feeling is mostly superseded by the fun that’s added by turning the play into a musical.
From the joyful and raucous “Stamp it Like a Clampett” to the tender, “When I’m Lookin’ at You,” Opelka’s music and lyrics pull the audience through the plotline.
Add some terrific choreography by Nicole Miller (including a worth-the-price-of-admission back flip by Elly May in heels), excellent music led by William Underwood, a fabulous mansion set by Ann N. Davis, and Director David Perkovich has a world premiere of which he should be proud.
Performances for “The Beverly Hillbillies, the Musical” at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; and some Thursday and Saturday matinees, through Aug 10. Tickets range from $40 to $44 with discounts available for groups of 11 or more. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 219-836-3255. Additional information is available at www.theatreatthecenter.com.