Recommended *** There are times, not often, that I find it difficult to rate a show/production. Sometime it is that the script is weak but the performances are superb. Other times, the show is strong, but the performers do not do it for me. Last night I witnessed the World Premiere of a new musical that is based on a Television Show, “The Beverly Hillbillies” that filled our homes with laughter every week on the “magic picture box” during the 1960’s.. Under the direction of David Perkovich, on a set that is worth the ticket price for by Ann N. Davis at Theatre at The Center in Munster Indiana ( just a short trip past the “crik” and the big city of Chicago), you will find yourself going back in time as Jed ( James Harms truly has this character down), Granny ( the adorable Kelly Ann Clark in a whole new light), Jethro ( (deftly handled by John Stemberg) and of course, tom-boy Elly Mae (played to perfection by Summer Naomi Smart) lead us on a special episode, that could be called the “pilot” for what was to become.
With a book by David and Amanda Rogers and music and lyrics by Gregg Opelka, and based on Paul Henning’s television show, the older people in the audience enjoyed some of their memories from the 1960s. The music is nothing to hum on the way out the door, but it is fun to watch and hear and we all found ourselves clapping hands and stomping feet during some of the truly “down home” numbers. It is difficult to take a tv show that ran for years in our living rooms and transfer it to a play. It has been done before and in order to work it has to have a complete story with an ending. This play starts us off in the fields of the Clampett family where oil has been discovered. Jed is being offered millions of dollars for the rights and he decides to take his family to a new world, Beverly Hills in California. All of their money is handled by their new neighbor and banker, Milburn Drysdale (deftly handled by the always reliable Norm Boucher).
As in the TV series, there are constant reminders of the Clampetts simple lives and the people who are after some of their money. While they are uneducated and simple, they are smarter than any of these people think and in the end, despite all types of tricks, they remain as they started, a family that cares about each other. There are stories about relationships, growing up and of course the con-man who has planned on sharing the wealth by introducing a girl from back home, Emaline (deliciously played by Colette Todd). The culprit, Colonel Gaylord Foxhall ( another solid character brought to stage by Bernie Yvon) is out to blackmail Jed and gets stymied along the way by the cleverness of these “dumber than dirt Hillbillies”.
This is a fast paced show filled with some very clever staging on one of the finest sets to ever grace the stage of the Munster theater. The Choreography by Nicole Miller is sheer magic if you enjoy Country-Western and Brenda Winstead’s costumes are dazzling.The five musicians, under the direction of William Underwood make the music fill the theater and get us into the mood of the story. Have fun and don’t think to hard!. As always, the ensemble si important to the production. Some blend in and handle many roles, other do standout jobs as characters that were important to the original work as well. Tina Gluschenko’s , Jane Hathaway, Mr. Drysdales right hand “man” is wonderful. One can tell that these actors spent some time watching late night cable tv to learn as much as they could about the Clampett family and their friends. This is a new show and I was told, put from script to stage in a matter of a few weeks. In that case, perhaps they deserve a **** rating!. Other stand-outs are Missy Aguilar (Cousin Pearl),Holly Stauder, Patrick Tierney, Victoria Blade, Rebecca Bradford, and David Sajewich.
To bring back your memories or to just have a good time, take a short hop out to Munster and see Theatre at the Center’s new arrival, “The Beverly Hillbillies, the Musical”. You only have until August 10th with performances as follows:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2″30 p.m.
There are some extra Saturday matinees and Thursday night performances that you can find on the Internet at www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com. Tickets range from $40-$44 and can also be ordered by calling 800-511-1552 or 219-836-3255
Theatre At The Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster Indiana, just about 30 minutes from Downtown. An easy ride and you will find gas prices much lower, so you can fill your car and have a great time in one fell swoop. To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Beverly Hillbillies, the Musical” and “You All have a Good Time, now!”