Review: The Beverly Hillbillies, the Musical (Theatre at the Center)

| August 3, 2014
James Harms stars as Jed Clampett in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
      
The Beverly Hillbillies: 
    the Musical

Book by David Rogers and Amanda Rogers
Music and Lyrics by Gregg Opelka
Directed by David Perkovich  
at Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN (map)
thru Aug 10  |  tickets: $40-$44   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Strong cast makes most of harmless ‘Hillbillies’

     

Summer Naomi Smart, Kelly Anne Clark, James Harms, Jake Mahler, John Stemberg, Missy Aguilar, Norm Boucher, Holly Stauder, Tina Gluschenko, Patrick Tierney, Victoria Blade, Rebecca Bradford, Colette Todd, Jill Sesso, Patrfick Martin, Julie Baird, Bernie Yvon amd David Sajewich star in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

    
Theatre at the Center presents
    
The Beverly Hillbillies: The Musical

Review by John Olson

“The Beverly Hillbillies” was no critical darling during its nine-year run on network TV in the 1960s, but this musical based on it should win new respect for the sitcom about the Clampett family who strikes oil on their Ozark homestead and moves to Beverly Hills with their newfound wealth. It shows that achieving just the right level of corny wit – writing jokes that could make one laugh and groan at the same time – wasn’t as easy as it may have looked. Its writer/producer Paul Henning had that gift and used it to build a franchise that also spawned the spinoffs “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres“. This musical, with a book by the late David Rogers and his daughter Amanda Rogers has only echoes of that humor. And if not that, what else is there?

Summer Smart and David Sajewich in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Well, there are the songs and dances. Chicago composer-lyricist Gregg Opelka has contributed 15 songs, all fairly catchy, but predictably in the song categories of traditional musical theater writing. It opens with an “I Want” song for Elly May called “What About Me,” it has loads of comedy numbers of course, a nice father-to-daughter ballad “When I’m Lookin’ at You” sung by Jed to Elly May and a hoe-down inspired “Stamp It Like a Clampett.” The latter song makes a lively production number for the first and second act finales, with Nicole Miller’s country/western choreography exuberantly danced by the cast. It’s all entertaining, even if Opelka isn’t any more successful at capturing the Henning formula in his lyrics than his bookwriters were in writing dialogue.

The Rogers’s book recalls the musical comedies of the 1920’s – similarities to the Marx Brothers’ “Cocoanuts” come to mind. Characters run around a mansion, stopping frequently for musical numbers that have little to do with advancing the plot. After a few early scenes in the Ozarks when the Clampetts sell their land and decide to move west, the action of this musical mostly takes place in the main room of the family’s Beverly Hills mansion – in an elaborate and realistic set by Ann N. Davis. It’s not long before a bunch of folks learn of these gullible country folk and come to their door to try for a piece of their wealth. Mrs. Pennyweather who seeks to marry her effete son Percy to Elly Mae, a trio of voluptuous young women vie for the rich and hunky Jethro, and most significantly, there’s a pair of grifters who seek to extort $5 million from Jed after entrapping him with some compromising photos. No one’s ever in serious jeopardy, but as the plot plays itself out, lots of doors are opened and slammed, misunderstandings occur, and everyone gets their turn for a comedy number or two.

Bernie Yvon and Kelly Anne Clark in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) James Harms and Kelly Anne Clark in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Patrick Tierney and Mary Nigohosian in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Norm Boucher and James Harms in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Mary Nigohosian and Jim Harms in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Summer Smart in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Missy Aguilar, Mary Nigohosian and Patrick Tierney in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

In lesser hands, it could be excruciating, but Theatre at the Center has pulled together such a strong cast that the two hours of playing time are fairly diverting. In creating a Jed that acknowledges Buddy Ebsen’s original without copying it, James Harms give Jed more heart than we saw on TV. Kelly Anne Clark does a good turn as Granny – the part so memorably played on TV by Irene Ryan. The grifters are played with panache by the venerable Bernie Yvon and Colette Todd, who has fun with “Rita Always Gets Her Man,” a sultry comedy number with more than a little resemblance to Damn Yankees’s “Whatever Lola Wants.” Summer Naomi Smart is fine, but does nothing unexpected, as Elly May. John Stemberg looks enough like Max Baer as Jethro, but uses just one goofy expression and pose throughout the show. That gets old pretty quick, and as I recall from past performances, Baer actually has more acting tricks than that in his bag. Tina Gluschenko does a pretty good Jane Hathway – and even gets a song in which she resents being just Mr. Drysdale’s “Girl Friday.” Norm Boucher doesn’t attempt to imitate Raymond Bailey of the series, but he makes an equally greedy and duplicitous banker, while Jill Sesso is suitably haughty as his snobby wife.

The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical is harmless enough, but the trip down to Munster to see it isn’t a must. 

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

The Beverly Hillbillies: The Musical continues through August 10th at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN (map), with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 2:30pm.  Tickets are $40-$44, and are available by phone (219-836-3255) or online through Tickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at TheatreAtTheCenter.com(Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)

Summer Naomi Smart, Kelly Anne Clark, James Harms, Jake Mahler, John Stemberg, Missy Aguilar, Norm Boucher, Holly Stauder, Tina Gluschenko, Patrick Tierney, Victoria Blade, Rebecca Bradford, Colette Todd, Jill Sesso, Patrfick Martin, Julie Baird, Bernie Yvon amd David Sajewich star in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


     

artists

cast

Summer Naomi Smart (Elly May), Kelly Anne Clark (Granny), James Harms (Jed Clampett), Jake Mahler (Mr. Brewster), John Stemberg (Jethro Bodine), Missy Aguilar (Cousin Pearl, Gloria Mundy), Norm Boucher (Milburn Drysdale), Holly Stauder (Margaret Drysdale), Tina Gluschenko (Mrs. Pennyweather), Patrick Tierney (Percy Pennyweather), Victoria Blade (Fredericka Collins), Rebecca Bradford (Ashley, Dance Captain), Colette Todd (Emaline Fetty), Jill Sesso (Tallulah Swanson), Patrfick Martin (Mr. Oglethorpe), Julie Baird (Mrs. Oglethorpe), Bernie Yvon (Col. Gaylord Foxhall), David Sajewich (Det. Lt. Frank Richards).

orchestra

William Underwood (conductor, keyboards), Harold Morrison (percussion), Deb Johnson (bass), Anthony Parsons (woodwinds), David Saenger (guitar), Alison Tatum (violin)

behind the scenes

David Perkovich (director), Gregg Opelka (composer, lyricist, arranger), Nicole Miller (choreography), William Underwood (music director, conductor) Ann N. Davis (scenic design, production manager, technical director), Brenda Winstead (costume design), Denise Karczewski (lighting design), Barry G. Funderburg (sound design), Jessie Howe (props design), Kevin Barthel (wig design), Matthew McMullen (stage manager), Frank J. Paul (asst. stage manager), Dellie Page (production assistant), Rachel Anderson (wardrobe supervisor), Louis Garcia (sound board operator), Geoffrey Lowe, Jennifer Lowe, Jameson Cooper, Anthony Parsons (orchestration editing), Jameson Copper (additional orchestrations), William Pullinsi (artistic director), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Summer Naomi Smart, Kelly Anne Clark, James Harms, Jake Mahler, John Stemberg, Missy Aguilar, Norm Boucher, Holly Stauder, Tina Gluschenko, Patrick Tierney, Victoria Blade, Rebecca Bradford, Colette Todd, Jill Sesso, Patrfick Martin, Julie Baird, Bernie Yvon amd David Sajewich star in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)James Harms and Summer Naomi Smart in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) James Harms in Theatre at the Center's world premiere "The Beverly Hillbillies: the Musical" by David Rogers, Amanda Rogers and Gregg Opelka, directed by David Perkovich. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

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Category: 2014 Reviews, John Olson, Musical, New Work, Theatre at the Center, World Premier

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