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The Bardy Bunch: The War Of The Families Partridge And Brady (Fringe Festival 2011)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 18, 2011

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Here’s the story … of The Bardy Bunch: The War Of The Families Partridge And Brady.

It’s 1974 and two families, one Brady, one Partridge are at war.  Their battlefield exists in cancelled sit-com land and their weapons consist of killer dance moves, cut throat ballads and production numbers meant to slay you in the aisles.  Their story is a mash up of well-known Partridge and Brady references retrofitted into such Shakespearean plays as Hamlet, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, among others.

The result is everything Fringe has come to be celebrated for: an innovative, enjoyable, hilarious night of theatre written by Stephen Garvey and directed by Jay Stern that isn’t afraid to push the envelope.

Whether you’re a 70s sitcom fan or a passionate follower of the bard, all your favorites are here – beginning with the Brady kids decked out in their all-too-familiar blue and white matching outfits as they sing “We’re gonna keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on dancing all through the night!” The choreography by Lorna Ventura is spot on – something you only realize you know as you actually watch it happen in front of you.  Ahhh, memories.

But it doesn’t all belong to the kids – when Carol Brady (Susan J. Jacks) arrives on the scene she sound so much like Florence Henderson that I heard murmurs in the audience … and same for Shirley Partridge (Michelle Mazza).  So when shades of Lady MacBeth emerge in Carol while her eldest daughter Marcia is being the Juliet to Keith Partridge’s Romeo it all makes perfect sense.

What delights so thoroughly is how faithful each character remains to their Brady/Partridge origins while faithfully moving the Shakespearean plots along.  This story was just waiting to be done.  Thanks to the fantastic team of Garvey and Stern it has now been done perfectly.

The jokes are appropriately corny and garner good-natured groans from the audience. (I’d love to repeat some of them but would hate to spoil the punch of hearing them for the first time).   This show is having a laugh at its own expense and that’s the fun of it.

But don’t expect a simple comedy.  A surprisingly touching song by Jan Brady (Annie Watkins) wearing a Hawaiian lei while sitting on a dunk tank may seem the last thing you’d expect to tug at your heart, but the scene channeling Ophelia was perfectly done, and brought a note of bittersweetness to the play  — before the laughter reappeared.

Music by Logan Medland, arranged by Zach Abramson is spot on, and standouts which bring the entire cast together include “I Woke Up In Love This Morning”.  There’s very little here to complain about, and even at the point where you’re thinking “wait … what’s going on?” there’s a hilarious exposition scene that recaps everything up until that point.  Brilliant.

This is one Fringe show I wish I could go back and see again.  Tomorrow’s show is already sold out so get tickets while you can – you won’t be disappointed!



The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady
Writer: Stephen Garvey, inspired by “The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family,” and the works of William Shakespeare
Director: Jay Stern
1h 40m
VENUE #9: The Ellen Stewart Theatre @ LA MAMA
Fri 19 @ 9 SOLD OUT
Sun 21 @ 8:45 Wed 24 @ 2

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig WichmanNo Gravatar August 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Glad you enjoyed the show, Karen.

Couldn’t agree with you more about the work by Susan, Michelle, Annie, Logan, Zach, Steve, and Jay -

- and all the rest of a truly great gang to rap with! (“Rap” in the ’70′s sense, of course!)

-”Reuben Kincaid”

Craig WichmanNo Gravatar August 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

P.S. – … and with a special shoutout from this corner for Lorna – who has been very patient with this actor’s dancing!

Karen Tortora-LeeNo Gravatar August 22, 2011 at 12:11 am

Hi Craig (Reuben) – thank you for embodying such a looming figure from my childhood! Hope that the entire bunch (Brady and Partridge alike) are enjoying the rest of the run, as much as the audiences are. Your show is one of the very best, and I’m almost certain NYC can look forward to seeing your dancing as you go on to Fringe Encores and Beyond. While I have absolutely no say in such matters, I’ve been known to be good in my predictions :)

Keep on, keep on, keep on … etc.

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