The Brady Bunch is (are?) alive and well and on stage at Theatre West in the brand new A Very Brady Musical.  With music and lyrics by Hope and Laurence Juber and book by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Hope Juber, A Very Brady Musical mixes multiple plots with catchy songs to create a mostly entertaining evening of tuneful entertainment.

Rather than follow any of the TV show’s oft rerun storylines, A Very Brady Musical creates new ones of its own.

After 3+ years of marriage, Mike and Carol have apparently still not consummated their wedding vows, something which Carol vows to remedy.  When one the kids overhears and tapes what appears to be a fight between two parents who hate each other’s guts, the 6 junior Bradys decide (on the advice of Brady maid Alice) to consult TV’s Dr. Anonymous, famed for the good advice he/she gives.  (Little do the kids know that their parents were only reading aloud from a script entitled I Hate Your Guts, submitted for consideration for an upcoming PTA fundraiser.)  

There is one hitch in the kids’ plan, however. They will need mucho money for the consultation, and each tries to think of a way to earn it. Greg decides to use his wood paneled station wagon (his woody) as a taxi service, Marcia responds to a newspaper ad seeking girls who wish to “Date For Money,” Peter and Jan decide to make cash as magicians, and Cindy and Bobby go in search of curbside sofas for the loose change they might find inside.

These endeavors backfire on all six, and by the end of the evening, the entire bunch find themselves in the city jail, though in true Brady fashion, they end up learning a life lesson from their misadventures.

The original TV series, which ran from 1969 to 1974, was wholesomeness personified. The mid-1990s A Very Brady Movie and A Very Brady Sequel added a sophisticated wink and a suggestion of the risqué, all the while sticking pretty closely to the original plotlines.

A Very Brady Musical goes much farther, with double entendres galore, a sort of adults-only Brady Bunch as seen through the eyes of Saturday Night Live, though with less sophistication.

In “Euphemisms,” Carol suggests to Mike that “you be the pickle, I’ll be the jar.  I’ll be the garage where you can park your car.   We’ll play hide the salami. It’ll be lots of fun.”

In “Greg’s Car,” the oldest Brady kid sings, “I got a woody. My woody’s hard to beat,” joined in by his siblings, who warble, “See that guy! He’s got a woody,” to which Greg responds, “I’ll pull it out so you can see.”

The 6 talented singer/dancer/actors playing the Brady kids are all terrific!

Elliot Kevin Schwartz (scion of the TV dynasty) is a wholesome boy-next-door treat, and because of this can get away with the countless “woody” jokes.  Even if nepotism played the teensy-weensiest part in his being cast, he is still a perfect choice for the role. 

Erin Holt has the requisite loveliness, perkiness, and long blond hair to play cheerleader Marcia, and she is very funny indeed when she demonstrates her dating techniques (including cheerleader splits) to Trixie, the owner of the “Suddenly Something Came Up Escort Service.”

Laura Marion is a fabulously forlorn Jan, always in Marcia’s shadow, and performs the evening’s brightest showstopper, the hilariously torchy “Totally Useless,” in which Jan bemoans her uselessness, all the while unable to “find the spotlight” which seems to be everywhere but on her.

Perky Justin Meloni is equally good as Peter, and he and Marion have great fun (and generate many laughs) with their inept magic act and the song “Just Like Magic.”

Kelly Stables, the petite firecracker who lit up Tip Toes a year or two back, is perfectly cast as lisping, pigtailed Cindy, and though Adam Conger stands more than a head taller than her, the multitalented actor matches her spark by spark as Bobby, and both are fine singers.

John Cygan brings a Will Farrell-like quality to Mike, and Kathy Garrick is a funny (and vocally strong) Alice, who turns out to have a secret identity which will not be revealed here.  Playing multiple roles (and moving lots of scenery) are Roger Cruz, Mary Garripoli, Matthew Hoffman, and Selah Victor, and they perform both tasks with verve.  The only casting misstep is (associate producer) Barbara Mallory as Carol, age-inappropriate by about two decades.

The composer/lyricist Jubers have created a dozen or so catchy songs, and some of their lyrics are real gems.  I especially liked “the grass is so green, it’s not even real,” and “rainbows and butterflies follow me around,” and “Alice’s Special Recipe” which calls for “a cup of confidence and a sprinkle of hope.”

Paul Denniston’s choreography, assisted by Stables, is an absolute delight, clever and evocative of the TV show’s era and atmosphere.   Musical director (Laurence) Juber, sound designer David P. Johnson, lighting designer Yancey Dunham, set designers Daniel Keough and Joseph M. Altadonna, scenic designer Richard De Siato, and costumer Diana Marion have done first rate work all of them.

A little double entendre goes a long way, however, and some of the risqué lines end up repeated a few times too many.  Also, though co-writer/director Schwartz is the son of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood, A Very Brady Musical would be a better show if it paid its source material a bit more respect.

If only the writers had trusted the original material and kept its humor a tad more PG, A Very Brady Musical could become yet another Brady Bunch franchise, and perhaps it will still be.  As it stands, it is a tuneful 90 minutes with far more laughs than groans, and when the kids are on stage, it often takes flight.

Theatre West:  3333 Cahuenga Blvd West, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
June 6, 2008
Photos: Matthew Hoffman

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