The Bard and the Booze: Thoughts on Drunk Shakespeare – October 31, 2015

Shakespeare’s plays have existed for hundreds of years and have been adapted in a myriad of ways and performed in (almost) all media genres. The interpretations have ranged from the literal to the metaphoric, the serious to the surreal – his works have been translated into every (living) language in the world, and performed by men and women of all ages. Some interpretations are of the complete text (as they were written/transcribed), and some are reductions or adaptations of the aforementioned complete text. But for all the brilliant performances given by countless actors over the centuries in all the various incarnations of the text all over the world, there was something missing from those productions.


Well, at least the overt inclusion of alcohol during the performance – I’m almost certain that covert intoxication has been a component of an actor’s performance of Shakespeare (and perhaps other plays) since they were first conceived. Drunk Shakespeare, as performed by members of the Drunk Shakespeare Society, sets to fill this void, and with great spirit(s) [pun well intended], currently playing at the Lounge at the Roy Arias Stages on West 44th Street (near 8th Avenue). I obtained these tickets via the TDF ticket raffle table at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS [BC/EFA] Flea Market & Grand Auction, and was intrigued by the premise of one actor downing (at least) 5 shots of whisky before attempting to perform a Shakespearean play.

Drunk Shakespeare

[Disclaimer: As their site states, “We do not condone excessive drinking. Our actors have a regular rotation system and are carefully monitored at all times. Drinking in moderation can be fun. Drinking to excess can ruin your life.  We promote healthy drinking.”

So these are professional drinkers of (American) legal drinking age – DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.]

As alcohol is a vital component of the performance, theatergoers have to be 21+ (and they do check IDs) – indeed upon entering the performance space, which is surrounded by bookshelves with chairs all around, patrons are handed a complimentary shot (on the night I went, it was a Tequila Sunrise). As it was Halloween, the Shakespeare play performed was (appropriately) Macbeth, and performed within 90 minutes, with five actors – four men and one woman, one of whom has the aforementioned multiple shots of whisky. At the performance I attended (with my friend Kelley, who was dressed up as Neil Diamond, circa 1970s), the five actors were Whit Leyenberger, Julia Giolzetti, Tim Haber (who also acted as the Host of the proceedings, explaining the overall premise), Brandon Carter and Josh Sauerman (the designated drunk actor). In the spirit of Halloween, several audience members (and the cast) were dressed in costume, and they held an informal costume contest, for which the first prize was a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne – my friend Kelley won the contest, so thus we were bestowed said bottle of champagne.

 The overall concept of Drunk Shakespeare is a kind of mash-up of the ethos of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, with a healthy dose of improv, reminiscent of Second City and Whose Line is it Anyway? The spirit of reduction abounds (skipping the “boring” parts and getting right to the sex and the killing), with periodic flourishes of pop culture references and audience participation/interaction, as well as challenges for the actors to incorporate throughout the performance, assigned by their fellow actors. There was definitely a sense of camaraderie (chemistry?) among the quintet – they reacted to one another not so much as a troupe of actors but more as a group of longtime friends putting on a (Shakespearean) play.

There wasn’t that much of a stage door experience, as the performance space was sparse (yet effective), and the cast (and audience) dispersed quickly after the performance, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for a group photo with the cast (which may or may not have been impaired by the free champagne and Tequila Sunrise), I did manage to snap a photo of some of the cast with the costumed audience members (among whom was my friend Kelley).

Drunk Shakespeare Halloween

It’s a brilliantly entertaining evening (or in my case, late afternoon) to watch a (literal) handful of actors perform the essence of a Shakespeare play, and to watch how (well) the intoxicated actor fares throughout the performance. Each performance is of a different play, with a different actor designated to partake in the “nectar of the gods”, so theoretically, there is a near infinite combination of possibilities and a high probability of a uniquely different performance every time. I highly recommend seeing this show, and to experience Shakespeare as it (probably) was performed back in Elizabethan times: with a healthy (moderate) dose of alcohol.

For more information, including performance schedules, visit:

Drunk Shakespeare flyers

Where Everything is New: Something Rotten! CD signing at Barnes & Noble – July 16, 2015

Another cast recording release, another CD signing – Barnes & Noble recently held a CD signing for the (physical copy of the) cast recording of Something Rotten!, including a three-song performance from the cast. These performances/signings occurred at the Barnes & Noble store on the Upper East Side (on 86th Street), which logistically makes (somewhat) sense for currently running shows, since the cast would arrive at the CD signing (which started at 4PM), perform and sign CDs then head to the theatre for the evening’s performance.

Something Rotten! CD signing Sign

As I often do, I arrived at the Barnes & Noble that morning to get the CD and the [peach] wristband that ensured me a seat inside the event. Of course, if you’ve followed the (few) blog posts I’ve written about CD signings, you’ll know that even though the [peach] wristband guarantees priority seating, I still camp out outside the event space to ensure a front row seat (I know I don’t really have to, I do it anyway), listening to the cast recording on repeat on my iPod. Other people started to arrive around a bit before noon, and I saw a few of the familiar faces I usually see at these events, which makes the time pass at a faster pace.

The cast trickled in shortly before the event start to conduct sound check (it’s always a fun to watch (and take copious amounts of photos of) the “pre-show” and see the cast go through the motions before the performance). Once again, Barnes & Noble Event manager Steven Sorrentino greeted the (very enthusiastic) crowd and introduced each song, accompanied by a pre-recorded backing track (as opposed to a piano accompanist). First to the stage were cast members Brian d’Arcy James and John Cariani singing “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, followed by Kate Reinders and John Cariani singing “I Love the Way” and ended with Christian Borle singing “Hard to be the Bard”.

Brian d'Arcy James & John Cariani - "God, I Hate Shakespeare"

Brian d’Arcy James & John Cariani – “God, I Hate Shakespeare”

Top: Kate Reinders & John Cariani - "I Love The Way" Bottom: Christian Borle - "Hard to Be the Bard"

Top: Kate Reinders & John Cariani – “I Love The Way” Bottom: Christian Borle – “Hard to Be the Bard”

Additional cast members Heidi Blickenstaff, Brad Oscar, and Michael James Scott joined the aforementioned for the customary (mini) press photo session before assuming their seats for the CD signing. The line moved at an even pace, even with the press photographers (and those waiting in line – including me) snapping photos as the CD booklets was passed down the table. There wasn’t as much chatting amongst the cast and those waiting, as there was a huge line of people waiting, and (as mentioned earlier) the cast had a 8PM show to perform.

From left to right: Michael James Scott, Heidi Blickenstaff, John Cariani, Brad Oscar, Kate Reinders, Brian d'Arcy James and Christian Borle

From left to right: Michael James Scott, Heidi Blickenstaff, John Cariani, Brad Oscar, Kate Reinders, Brian d’Arcy James and Christian Borle

The cast recording of Something Rotten! is hilarious and the show (as I understand it, as I have yet to see it, due to financial constraints) is a reminiscent of Spamalot and The Producers, with a dash of The Drowsy Chaperone  and a plethora of Shakespeare (obviously). There are hundreds (thousands?) of references to other musicals, both in the lyrics and the music, and the overall sound of the score reminds me of other great musical scores, both from the “Golden Age” as well as contemporary scores. It’s a delightful cast recording for any musical theatre fan – they’ll be laughing and singing along with the cast (as well as making a checklist of all the musical theatre references).

I also hope someone, somewhere will actually write Omlette The Musical.

Something Rotten! signed CD booklet

Revisiting The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady – April 10, 2014

Everything old is new again, or at least it seems that way – these days, most of the TV shows, movies and musicals mine their source material from the past – remakes or “reboots”, with varying degrees of (financial and critical) success; another consistent trend is to reinterpret various Shakespearean plays and set them in modern-day (well, comparatively modern). The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady, written by Stephen Garvey, uses these two well established methods of storytelling and mashes them together, and the end result is a hilarious and inspired production that will please fans of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family as well as devotees of Shakespeare of all varieties.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve been following the journey of this fantastic show (which is ending its spectacular sold out four-week run at the off-Broadway venue Theater at Saint Clement’s tonight) since its initial run at the New York International Fringe Festival three years ago, and its slow (but steady) trek uptown. This revised and expanded version retains the masterful blending of Shakespearean text and recognizable one-liners, and inserts standout musical numbers – the same songs featured in the two aforementioned TV shows – for several of the characters, so that amid the humor and horror, there are moments of poignancy. Essentially, The Bardy Bunch tells the tale of what (might have) happened to the Bradys and Partridges after the end of their respective shows: a tale of star-crossed lovers, vengeful plots and counterplots, and cases of mistaken identity, with a whole lot of singing and dancing (the updated finale features fantastic choreography by Lorna Ventura)

Bardy Bunch marquee

The cast was astounding, many of whom reprised their respective roles from the initial production and continue to shine (among those were Erik Keiser as Keith Partridge, Annie Watkins as Jan Brady, and Cali Elizabeth Moore as Marcia Brady) as well as newcomers who brought their interpretation to their respective roles (among those were Sean McDermott as Mike Brady and Zach Trimmer as Greg Brady). Each actor captured their respective character’s trademark tics and catchphrases with ease, to the amusement of the audience, recognizing something familiar from their upbringing (or in my case, from frequent reruns on TV).

Bardy Bunch Cast 2014

In that previous blog (written almost a year ago), I had stated that I hoped this show would find an off-Broadway venue in the near future, and considering the Theater at Saint Clement’s is located on 9th Avenue and 46th Street, technically speaking, this run was off-Broadway (albeit for a limited run). Hopefully, word of mouth from its nightly sold out performance will garner the attention of Broadway producers (or perhaps non-profit theater organizations) and lead The Bardy Bunch a few avenues east to Broadway.

Bardy Bunch Playbill

Blood Will Have Blood: Thoughts on Macbeth – October 30, 2013

Murder, revenge, love, and ambition – the Bard is (almost) everywhere in the fall of 2013, or at least for a limited time, as there are productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Richard III and Macbeth on Broadway, and a production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. It’s as if the Gods of the Theater are helping me compensate for my not having seen any Shakespeare productions in the past (probably not, but it does seem that way). Interestingly, the Lincoln Center production of Macbeth is the second that I had seen this year, the first being the (nearly) one man adaptation with Alan Cumming earlier in the year, which was set in a psychiatric institution and in contemporary time. The Lincoln Center production, currently playing at the Vivian Beaumont theatre through January 12, 2014, is set nearer to the play’s original time with the customary period costumes, staging and a full cast, with much thanks to the TDF Raffle table at this year’s Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market & Auction.

Macbeth poster

To compare the two productions I have seen would be a disservice to both productions, as they are both uniquely frightening and compelling, though to have seen the full production as it was (presumably) originally staged adds to the already heightened drama of the play. All aspects between the two productions differ from one another (set design, lighting, costumes, etc.), but still have the capacity to shock and enthrall the audience. The Vivian Beaumont theatre (one of a handful of Broadway theaters in which I had yet to see a production) is the perfect space to showcase this tragedy, as the configuration of the stage is a thrust, which adds immediacy to the progression of the play.

[Fact: For those who many not be too familiar with stage configuration (myself being one) a trust stage is a one that extends into the audience on three sides, and has a wide upstage/backstage area, and entrances and exits can made via passages below the seats, with the appearance that the actors are leaving through the audience – the correct technical term is a vomitory entrance.]

Macbeth LCT cast list

The set design is sparse yet effective, with areas raised in the middle of the thrust stage to simulate tables, areas depressed to represent the witches’ cauldron, and a pair of iron-wrought staircases and walkway in between. The costumes were relatively contemporary of the play’s setting, with medieval leather armor, swords and shields as well as Victorian dress for the non-battle scenes. The sound and lighting design were astounding, from the atmospheric chanting to underscore the action to the gentle twitter of birds in the distance; the lighting was also striking with the use of light and darkness to accentuate the tension without undercutting the horror – while the murders take place on stage, they are not so much seen but heard, which makes the deeds even more frightening. The cast was astounding, from Byron Jennings, John Glover and Malcolm Gets as the three witches, shrouded in tattered robes with their feline familiars, embodied by a trio of actors (Patrick Vaill, Paul Kite and Stephanie Fieger) who added a level of creepiness to the malice they would inflict on susceptible Macbeth, played superbly by Ethan Hawke as a man reluctant yet resigned to his prophetic fate and goes to great lengths to ensure his destiny to Anne-Marie Duff, as the pragmatic Lady Macbeth prodding her husband to his bloody fate, and meets her own dour destiny.

The stage door experience this time round was inadvertent, as this was my first time at the Vivian Beaumont, I didn’t know where the stage door was – nevertheless I stumbled upon it as I found my way out of the Lincoln Center area. There weren’t too many people about (probably due to the lateness of the hour and perhaps not knowing where the stage door was). I didn’t stay too long either, though I did manage to meet a few of the cast, who were all friendly signing playbills and such.

All in all, I do recommend seeing this production of Macbeth for a classic tale of greed, murder and ambition showcased as it might have been back in Shakespearean times. Modern adaptations of this bloody play are all well and good, as it is evidence of the universality of the play’s themes, but there is something gut-wrenching watching a full production in period costumes and effective technical design that makes the story all the more terrifying.

Then again, I did see this production the night before Halloween, so that might have had an influence as well.

Macbeth signed playbill

A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers: Thoughts on Romeo and Juliet – August 31, 2013

So as summer comes to a close, so does my (apparent) Summer of Seeing Shakespearean Tragedies, which started (interestingly enough) with the tragicomic pastiche The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady, a show I sincerely hope has a future in an off-Broadway (or even at a Broadway) venue. This inventive musical mash-up soon led to the more serious undertaking of the Bard’s work, first off with the brilliant (nearly) one man Broadway production of Macbeth starring Alan Cumming, followed (quite) closely with an off-off Broadway production of Hamlet at the Seeing Place Theater, which was equally brilliant. Of course, logic would have dictated that in this Shakespeare binge, I should have made an attempt to attend the Shakespeare in the Park productions of The Comedy of Errors and Love’s Labor Lost but I hadn’t; nevertheless, I have started to make amends for this lapse in absorbing all things Shakespeare, starting with an early preview of Romeo and Juliet, currently playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater for a limited run through January 12, 2014.

Romeo and Juliet marquee

This tragedy of a pair of star-crossed lovers from rival families is undoubtedly a familiar tale, having been adapted countless times on film, television, and on stage (most notably West Side Story); I’m also quite sure in saying that this play has been read and studied (and re-read and re-studied) during the course of an academic tenure, so it’s pretty safe to say everyone knows the story, or is at least familiar with the story (and can quote some of the famous lines / monologues). This adaptation is set in modern times and in modern dress (Romeo enters the stage on a real motorcycle), and adds a racial element in its casting, as those in the House of Montague are white and those of the House of Capulet are black, with the exception of Nurse, who is white. This difference in skin color is not commented upon during the production (as the play adheres to the original Shakespearean text) though the difference does add credence to the tension that exists between the two families.

Two Houses

The set design is sparse, with an assemblage of chairs, various prop pieces, and a movable three-piece set that serves as the back wall; of course, there is the levitating set piece that represents Juliet’s balcony. The lighting and sound design (there is ambient music from a lone cello and percussion throughout) is striking and dynamic, and adds urgency to the tension that occurs throughout the play. The cast was astounding, especially leads Orlando Bloom (in his Broadway debut) and Condola Rashad as the titular Romeo and Juliet, who were both passionate and nuanced in their respective roles, and did have a good amount of chemistry together. Other standouts were Brent Carver as Friar Laurence and Jayne Houdyshell as Nurse, both of whom were sympathetic enablers / accomplices (depending on how you interpret their actions) to the young lovers.

Romeo and Juliet cast list

The stage door experience was a good one, and as it was the first matinee performance, and the first two-performance day (the production had started previews earlier in the week), it was not known whether or not Orlando Bloom (who was clearly the box office draw for this production) would be emerging from the stage door to greet the fans who would undoubtedly be waiting. I was mildly surprised that the stage door area was not teeming with people – as there are photos from after the first preview performance when the entire block was closed off due to the phalanx of fans waiting at the stage door (most of whom I suspect had not seen the show and were just waiting outside to see Mr. Bloom). Anyway, the majority of the cast did emerge from the stage door (and I managed to secure a spot near the stage door entrance), and multitudes of cheers erupted when they did, the loudest came when Mr. Bloom came out (which was a lovely gesture, though I’m sure he felt obliged to do so, as he is the most recognizable name in the cast, generally speaking). He was lovely and gracious to those at the stage door, though as he was signing playbills, it was made known by the theater’s security guard that Mr. Bloom would just be signing playbills and not posing with anyone (though we were free to take pictures of him), which is understandable, as everyone (myself included) would want a photo with him. Thankfully everyone at the stage door was well-behaved and courteous to one another (I’ve had experiences when this was not the case, and people behind me would push ahead to get a better glance at the actors).

Orlando Bloom

All in all, it was a good production, though I’m probably not the best judge of such things, as my viewership of Shakespeare on stage is limited. I do recommend seeing this production, as it’s rare (at least to my knowledge) that this play is revived on Broadway. No doubt, I’ll be increasing my Shakespeare viewership this fall, when the upcoming productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III by the Shakespeare’s Globe are set to play in repertory at the Belasco Theater, with an all-male cast (adhering to the tradition set forth in Shakespeare’s time).

For more information about this production can be found on the official site:

Romeo and Juliet signed playbill

To Thine Own Self Be True: Thoughts on Hamlet – June 8, 2013

Around this time last year, (give or take a few hours) I started this theatre blog and wrote about One Man, Two Guvnors, the hilarious play I saw the day before the Tony Awards; along the way I recounted my experiences about the various shows and theatrical events that happened within the past year and recollections of the shows I had seem prior to my starting the blog. Over the past year, I have seen amazing plays and musicals (both on and off-Broadway), and have met a plethora of amazing actors and prolific playwrights, all of whom I am in awe for the talent and genius they share with countless people on a daily basis.

So here we are once more, on the day before the 2013 Tony Awards, I attended another play, though this time it was an off-off Broadway production of Hamlet, currently playing at the Seeing Place Theater in repertory with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard. It is interesting (and purely coincidental) that my last two theatrical experiences were of the Shakespearian kind (and two of the Bard’s most famous and most adapted tragedies), after years of not seeing any live stage productions of Shakespeare – though technically speaking, I had seen the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), which strives to recount all of Shakespeare’s plays (and sonnets) in one evening, so that kinda counts, right?

But I digress.

My second (non-comical) encounter with Shakespeare came about through my good friend Kelley, a Shakespeare devotee and an ardent proponent of off-Broadway and regional theater companies; she brought to my attention the Seeing Place Theater and this production of Hamlet, another play that I’m sure every student has read (or was made to read) at some point in their educational careers. Among Shakespeare’s plays (at least the ones I’ve read) Hamlet was my favorite (well, at least among the tragedies) – again, like most students, I had read the play in high school and had watched several of the film and television adaptations.


This adaptation of the Bard’s tragedy about murder, ambition and madness in the “rotten state” of Denmark was set in a sparse space with the actors adorning contemporary attire, and included the use of firearms in addition to the usual rapiers. The theater space itself was quite small, as the production was at the Sargent Theater located on the 4th floor of a building next to a police precinct in Hell’s Kitchen. This production also boasted a cast that played their parts with much subtlety, which was a refreshing change from the sometimes over-heightened range of emotions displayed in many of the film adaptations I have seen. Kudos to this cast of twelve (some doubling up on the minor roles) for their brilliant delivery of speeches and lines that have been recited by countless actors in the past, and bringing forth a new dimension in the intent of those familiar lines.

The Cast of Hamlet

The Cast of Hamlet

Standouts among the cast included Brandon Walker, as the titular prince and Erin Cronican as the doomed Ophelia. Mr. Walker’s portrayal of the titular Danish prince was dramatic and not melodramatic – his anger was understated, and his sorrow was understandable. I had noticed throughout the production that Mr. Walker was sniffling almost consistently, which at first I found to be a bit distracting, but had dismissed it, thinking that perhaps he had a cold or was suffering for allergies and was playing through his illness. It was only afterwards when various members of the cast were chatting with other theatergoers in the lobby that I overheard Mr. Walker say that his consistent sniffling (which another patron had thought alluded to this Hamlet being a drug user) was simply an affectation (and a brilliant one at that, emphasizing just enough the grief Hamlet feels throughout the play). Ms. Cronican’s portrayal of Ophelia was brilliant – her Ophelia was not an overly hysterical, lovesick girl whose passion for Hamlet was her only reason for living; her descent to madness was gradual and believable, and heartbreaking to witness. Also notable were Jason Wilson, Alan Altschuler and Janice Hall as Claudius, Polonius and Gertrude, respectively, all of whom portrayed their respective characters as three-dimensional people and not the stereotypical villain, the loquacious accomplice and doting mother (again respectively) – they all kept their emotions in check for much of the play, letting it fester and manifest itself at the right moment, so that their outbursts are unexpected and effective.

This production is well worth seeing for its subtle performances from a brilliant company of actors – I’m not quite sure if I’ll get around to seeing their Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a clever pairing of plays, as the actors whose characters are in both plays play those characters in both plays (I do hope that made some semblance of sense), though I would be very interested in seeing it, if only to see how this dozen strong company tackle Stoppard’s take on these iconic characters.

Hamlet playbill

For more information about the Seeing Place Theater (and dates and times for both plays), please visit their website:

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Musings on Macbeth – May 26, 2013

As my previous blog dealt with an inventive pastiche combining Shakespeare with two iconic American sitcoms, it seemed appropriate (almost necessary) that this blog post would focus on the genuine article – in this case, Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Like most people, my first exposure to this play was as a reading assignment in school, though I was quite familiar with the plot and many of its famous lines (as the title of this blog post can attest). While I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s plays, seen film and television adaptations of his plays, and had visited the Globe Theater in London and Stratford-Upon-Avon, I have not actually seen a Shakespeare play performed on stage, that is, one that wasn’t a pastiche – of course I have seen The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) and the aforementioned The Bardy Bunch.

While I’m sure there are countless Shakespeare productions off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway, as well as Shakespeare in the Park, every now and then a Shakespeare play is produced on Broadway, almost always with a big name star in the leading role(s), which seems to me to be a clever marketing strategy to entice those who would not normally go see a Shakespeare play (or any play for that matter); at least that’s my overall impression – though I will admit that I tend to see more musicals than plays (but I’m striving to change that). This rather long-winded explanation brings me to Macbeth, currently playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater for a limited run through July 14, 2013.

Macbeth marquee

This adaptation of the Bard’s bloody tragedy about the power of prophesy and its influence on ambition is set in a stark room in a psychiatric institution, and is a predominantly a one man performance, with Alan Cumming inhabiting all the roles in the play (that there are two other actors on stage as well, Jenny Sterlin and Brendan Titley, respectively a doctor and a nurse at the psychiatric institution, who intermittently interact with Mr. Cumming). Also present are a trio of closed circuit cameras and monitors that play a significant role in the retelling of Macbeth’s journey to fulfill the prophesies bestowed upon him by the Three Witches and the harrowing events that lead him (and his wife) down a path of madness. Mr. Cumming has received much critical acclaim for his expert portrayal of the various characters in this tragedy (though not a Tony nomination, which I feel is an egregious oversight) and rightly so – he was able to employ a range of affectations that distinguished one character from another, moving with speed and agility across a sparse stage, as well as using props and the presence of the closed circuit monitors to distinguish the different characters. Macbeth is probably the scariest of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and of course is famous for being a cursed play and with good reasons.

The curse of the Scottish Play is not a laughing matter.

The curse of the Scottish Play is a VERY serious matter, with not to be trifled.

This production was genuinely frightening, with eerie, ambient underscore, coupled with moments of complete silence, the presence of the aforementioned closed circuit cameras and monitors flickering on and off, and the clever use of the lighting that added to the suspense. It was almost as if I was watching a horror film come to life on stage – I’m not generally a fan of horror films, but there were moments throughout the play (which was roughly 1 hour 40 minutes long without an intermission) when I was truly startled. The dual realities – the overall setting at the psychiatric institution, wherein it’s clear that Mr. Cumming is the patient, and the setting  within the play’s narrative wherein Mr. Cumming inhabits all the characters – often blur and intertwine, adding layers to the madness with which the play has in spades. Of course, then there’s the added bonus that Mr. Cumming is himself of Scottish descent, and spoke in his native Scottish accent, which was refreshing and added to the authenticity to this adaptation.

Remaining performances as of May 26, 2013

The stage door experience was a fantastic one, and interestingly there were not as many people waiting at the stage door as I would have thought there would be. Alan Cumming was amazingly gracious, signing playbills and chatting with those waiting, looking each and every person in the eyes as they spoke. As expected, Mr. Cumming was only signing playbills and there would not be an opportunity to take a photo with him, and it was quasi amusing how the playbill signing process turned out. Thankfully, everyone waiting at the stage door behaved themselves as a line of sorts formed and each person held out their playbill for Mr. Cumming to sign, said a few words and moved aside for the next person – it was almost like we were all in line to meet a member of the royal family.

Alan Cumming at the stage door

I highly recommend seeing this play for those who wish to see a truly versatile actor tackle a bloody good Shakespeare tragedy.

Macbeth playbill signed

Observations on The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady

Here’s the story…

Bardy Bunch intro

The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady is a new musical written by Stephen Garvey that cleverly combines characters from The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family with elements from about a dozen or so Shakespeare plays, most prominently Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing.  As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, The Bardy Bunch has moments of drama, comedy, and tragedy, coupled with a smattering of familiar tunes from both The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, including “I Think I Love You”, “Time To Change”, “It’s Sunshine Day” and “Come On Get Happy”.

My first encounter with this show was nearly two summers ago when I saw the full production at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La Mama, one of the shows featured at the New York International Fringe Festival. I’ve always had an interest in Shakespeare’s plays, and variations thereof, and the premise of essentially a long crossover episode involving the main characters from The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, blended with a smattering of the Bard’s most famous plays was an ingenious one, of which I was fairly surprised no one had thought of doing before. Also, for the sake of full disclosure, another [added] reason for my interest in seeing this show was the fact that A.J. Shively, whom I had seen numerous times in La Cage aux Folles, was among the cast (as Greg Brady). The show was hilarious in utilizing easily recognizable catchphrases and references to both television programs, intertwining them with Shakespeare’s verse. The cast was spot on in their respective roles, and truly looked as if they were having a marvelous time; the performances skillfully avoided parodying the actors who had originally portrayed the characters on TV. Notable standouts were Erik Keiser as Keith Partridge, Annie Watkins as Jan Brady, and Cali Elizabeth Moore as Marcia Brady.

Playbill from the New York International Fringe Festival

Playbill from the New York International Fringe Festival

I was fortunate enough to attend a special presentation at Pearl Studios on May 16th, albeit a reduced version of the show (running about 90 minutes with out an intermission) with minimal costumes. There had been an initial presentation shortly after the run at the Fringe, a full production at the Kraine Theater; on both occasions, investors (as well as fans of the show) had been invited to see the presentation – I fell into the latter category, though had I had the financial means to do, I would have invested in the show. As it was a shortened version of the show, a narrator was included to fill in the bits that were taken out, and to provide exposition for the story.

The Bardy Bunch Cast list, 2013

The Bardy Bunch Cast list, 2013

Also as an unintentional and classic nod to the series, on the day I attended the presentation (there was another the next day) it was explained by director Jay Stern that Adam Wald, the actor portraying Danny Partridge, had recently developed laryngitis and would not be able to recite the lines, and that writer Stephen Garvey would be reciting the lines (which added another level of hilarity to the presentation.). Even as a reduced version of the show, it was witty and highly entertaining, and the majority of the cast from the Fringe Festival reprised their roles, (except for two, who had since moved out of New York), which is a testament to the quality of the show.

The goal of the show is to find an off-Broadway venue, a goal I sincerely wish the creative team achieve some time in the near future and hopefully after that perhaps a transfer to a Broadway theater. The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady is a fun show that appeals to fans of The Brady Bunch and/or The Partridge Family, as well as for fans of Shakespeare pastiches.

Musical Director Logan Medland and Writer Stephen Garvey

Musical Director Logan Medland and Writer Stephen Garvey

For more information about The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady, please visit their website: