By Barry Reszel
Hello sweet show with songs so much pre-Glee
That too brings us to thoughts of saccharine dates
In youthful times of tales Partridge, Brady
That we ne’re missed, nor did our dear classmates.
Fridays pre-DVR you came, we swooned.
But now, my God, with Marcia 60 years
You reappear in some warped Brigadoon
On yonder Mercury stage to laughs and tears?
With names and faces generally the same
But dispositions changed for eviler times
Dear Greg and Marcia, Keith and Laurie: Shame
For mixing icons in with Shakespeare’s rhymes
But we’ll be back one hundred times to see
The good, the bad, evil Partridge, Brady
Bottom line first: Anyone whose childhood or adolescence touched both the Brady and Partridge families, Friday nights on ABC in the early 1970s, sweet Jesus, this is THE musical for you.
A few years ago, some warped genius named Stephen Garvey had a brilliant idea to take everything a generation both loved and collectively rolled their eyes at from the two sitcom staples The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family and turn it all into a musical, using songs from the shows themselves. If that wasn’t enough, he plotted the whole thing around elements of a dozen Shakespearean plays, so, like, you get to hear Marcia break into a rhymed couplet, which is totally groovy.
The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady, comes to Chicago’s Mercury Theatre by much of the team responsible for New York’s sold-out off-Broadway run in 2104. It’s directed by Jay Stern, choreographed by Lorna Ventura and brought to the Windy City by Disappearing Dog, LLC and Producer Mike Timoney. The show originally premiered in 2011 at the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an award for outstanding ensemble.
Here’s the premise: It’s 1974, and two of America’s sunniest families are out of work following cancellation of both of their sitcoms. The families—forever enemies like the Capulets and the Montagues—cross paths in a blood-soaked, vengeance-filled, lust-fueled, Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na singing, two-hour, uninterrupted Shakespearean tragicomedy.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll gasp. You’ll scratch your head. You’ll reflect. You’ll say, “WTF?!” (or at least think it). And you’ll want to come back again and bring your friends.
That’s precisely why this is the show to have legitimate promise for a longstanding engagement in a small to medium-sized Chicagoland venue. If Pump Boys and Dinettes and Million Dollar Quartet could play five and seven years respectively, the Bardys certainly deserve to fill Mercury Theatre’s 290-seat capacity every night through Nov. 27 and quite possibly beyond.
The Chicago cast is made up of many local stars, including Cory Goodrich and Stef Tovar as Carol and Mike Brady and Sawyer Smith, Olivia Renteria and Callie Johnson as Greg, Marcia and Cindy. Team Partridge features Brianna Borger and Jeff Max as Shirley and Reuben Kincaid (surprise, they’re married). Hair-flipping Keith and lovely hippie Laurie are brought to life by Skyler Adams and Erin McGrath, respectively. Joining the spot-on characterization parade are Jake Nicholson as Bobby, Brett Tuomi as Sam the Butcher, Mary Margaret Roberts as Tracy, Timothy Eidman as Chris and Jake Stempel as Chris, too (yep).
Surprise favorites in the production come from the scripting and impeccable characterizations of Alice (Tina Gluschenko); invisible Jan Brady (Annie Watkins, reprising the role she played off Broadway); and “Chucky”-like Danny Partridge (Jared Rein).
Resisting the temptation to share more, rest assured the combination of beloved characters and songs from those 1970s sitcoms (“Keep On,” “I Woke Up in Love This Morning,” “It’s a Sunshine Day, “Time to Change” and more) keep the nostalgia coming in the midst of the Shakespearean bloodbath.
Oh Bardy Bunch, I think I love you.