The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
August 13, 2011
In 1974, with their TV shows off the air, the characters of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family engage in a bloody feud reminiscent of Shakespeare. Don’t laugh—at the idea, anyway: many of Shakespeare’s plots are borrowed from Roman comedy, which is the origin of sitcoms.
Both performing groups, the Partridges (Keith, Laurie, Danny, Tracy, Chris, Mom, and former band manager/new husband Reuben) and the Bradys (Mom, Dad, Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Greg, Peter, Bobby, plus housekeeper Alice) are booked to perform in the same venue. They swear to exterminate each other, but amid this fracas teen idol Keith Partridge falls in love with the none-too-bright Marcia Brady. Keith and Marcia continue to meet under Romeo and Juliet conditions, while they spread rumors which bring Laurie and Greg together (reminiscent of the play Much Ado About Nothing). Meanwhile, Danny resents his mother’s remarriage (as in Hamlet) to which she responds “Oh what a piece of work is Dan.” The elder Bradys are already murderers, and Mrs. Brady loses her mind (as does Lady Macbeth).
The plot twists and sparkles with musical numbers. There is much death and much merriment. Keith notices that, although it is 1974, Marcia has never heard of Richard Nixon or Vietnam. And Marcia is quite groovy despite her lack of resemblance to “anything happening in the real world.” The show ends with the mostly-dead cast singing the hit single “I Think I Love You.”
If you’ve had any exposure to either sitcom, you will probably like some part of this show. If you’re a big fan of the programs, you will enjoy the comparisons (both our families had an episode where our dogs ran away) and frustrations (alive or dead, whatever Jan Brady says is ignored by everyone else) and unnecessary drama (a poisonous tarantula from the Aloha State, where hello also means goodbye). Writer Stephen Garvey has successfully piled story upon story and come up with something funnier than the sum of its plots. Some of the Shakespearean parody works—such as “The Brady doth protest too much”—while the rest of it helps poke fun at the overblown phenomena of The Bard and the so-called singing families.
Director Jay Stern and choreographer Lorna Ventura deftly juggle the energetic cast of 18. Musical arrangers Logan Medland and Zach Abramson make music as you remember it from the shows, tambourines included. Izzy Fields costumes the whole bunch with dazzling style—and it all looks good covered in blood, too, thanks to Blood Effects Consultant Lauren Page Russell. Craig Napoliello’s scenic design includes many fabulous '70s cube and cubbyhole setups that are very Brady. The whole ensemble contributes to the drama, in which I thought the strongest actors were Keith (Erik Keiser), Marcia (Cali Elizabeth Moore), Cindy (Talisa Friedman), Greg (A.J. Shively), Laurie (Carina Zabrodsky), and Carol (Susan J. Jacks).