Recommended *** If you were around during the 1970’s and were one of those families that had to sit in front of the TV for either “The Brady Bunch” or “The Partridge Family”, you might just be the perfect audience for the new production at The Mercury Theater, “The Bardy Bunch” , a musical parody by Stephen Garvey that pits these two sitcom shows, that were cancelled by ABC, against each other. Toss in some Shakespeare plots and sub-plots, just for fun and you will understand the title having “Bardy” instead of “Brady”. The other title of the show which by the way became a cult hit off-Broadway is “The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady”.
This production is a mish-mash of sorts utilizing a dozen or so Shakespeare plays and some 15 songs (at least parts of some TV hits) that were a part of these two hits of their times. Songs such as “I Think I Love You”, I Woke Up in Love This Morning” and “It’s A Sunshine Day” and of course a superb blend of talent, many newcomers to The Mercury make for a delightful 1 hour and forty five minutes (no intermission), that may have been even stronger at 90 minutes by shaving a few of the “ghost bits”.
Here’s a story about two lovely families that were making lots of bucks in the 1970’s- The Brady Family was about a couple who re-married. Mike Brady (played by Stef Tovar with curls galore) who had three sons who married a woman, Carol (divinely played by Cory Goodrich) who had three daughters. The girls are delightful with Marcia (Olivia Renteria )being the focal point, little Cindy (adorably played by Callie Johnson) and of course, middle child, Jan (deftly handled by Annie Watkins) who it seems is never noticed. The boys are Greg (the very leggy Sawyer Smith, who almost brings back the memory of the original), Peter (Dan Gold) and young Bobby (Jake Nicholson).
One the other side of the stage are The Partridges, led by Shirley (Brianna Borger appears to be having a ball with this role) and her manager/lover Reuben Kincaid ( Jeff Max is sparkling). The kids are Keith (Skylar Adams is dynamite as the idol), Laurie (the adorable Erin McGrath), trouble-maker Danny (a comical turn by Jared Rein), little brother Chris (played by Timothy Eidman and then Jake Stempel- on the run, they did change actors for this role, so why not?) and little tracy (Mary-Margaret Roberts.
The other characters in this production are members of the Brady show, housekeeper Alice (a very funny Tina Gluscenko, who has some great one-liners) and Bret Tuomi who handles Sam, the Butcher as well as Mr. Phillips and a surprise or two. Director Jay Stern keeps the action moving on the set designed by Grant Sabin. The choreography by Lorna Ventura is very 1970’s and the cast members brought back some fond memories of sitting in front of our big screen TV ( during the early 1970’s we bought a 27″ tv). Hi-def did not exists and if I recall, we may have had four channels during those days .Robert Kuhn’s costumes were very early 1970’s (wonder if they raided my brother-in-laws closet for some of the shirts) and Carl Wahlstrom’s sound and Claire Chrzan’s lighting made it all easy to follow. For the record, only one musician is listed in the program-Bobby Dietz- great job Bobby!
Is this a “Must See” show? No, way! But, if you need to get away from your hum-drum or high pressured life and need to escape into a place that perhaps had a special place in your life, this may be the best escape in town. There is laughter amidst the bloodshed you will witness. After all, it is all in good fun. Can Marcia and Keith find true happiness with each other? Can Greg and Laurie do likewise? Is Reuben really responsible for Shirley being a widow? Return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, mainly 1974,and see for yourself. If you are a fan of either of these shows, you might find yourself hooked. In fact, many people have returned to see the show again. Are you one of them?
The Bardy Bunch” will continue at The Mercury Theater thru November 27th (maybe longer as there are no plans to bring back “The Christmas Schooner” a Chicago Holiday tradition) with performances as follows:
Thursdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
The Mercury Theater is located at 3745 N. Southport and there are plenty of great dining spots up and down the street. This IS Wrigleyville, so be prepared for crowds during the upcoming play-offs. There is valet parking at the theater as well as street parking (metered) and a lot one block north of the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Bardy Bunch”