Ralph and Alice and Ed and Trixie (and Song and Dance)

Left: Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows in “The Honeymooners” on TV. Right: Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer in the stage musical. Credit CBS Archives; Richard Termine for The New York Times

With a book by the TV writers Dusty Kay (“Roseanne”) and Bill Nuss (“Pacific Blue”), music by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills, “The Honeymooners” tells a new story that would not have felt out of place on the original sitcom.

Here on the stage of the Paper Mill Playhouse,Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer were rehearsing what appeared to be a conventional scene from “The Honeymooners,” the 1950s sitcom.

Against the backdrop of a luxurious apartment far beyond their modest means, Mr. McGrath, playing the rotund blowhard Ralph Kramden, was apologizing to Ms. Kritzer, as his endlessly forgiving wife, Alice, for another harebrained scheme gone awry.

“I got a biiiiiiiig mouth,” Mr. McGrath said, in a blustery Brooklyn accent. “It’s about time you know that, too.”

Ms. Kritzer offered a deadpan reply. “Thanks for letting me in on the secret,” she said. “You hid it beautifully.”

Sixty years ago, this might have been the moment where a studio audience would burst into applause. Instead, an orchestra struck up a gentle tune and Mr. Grath began to sing an apology for continually disappointing his wife:

Oh, I want it so bad
That of course I get mad
When you burst my hot-air balloon
I just want to love you
Take you to the stars above you
Bang, zoom, to the moon

The apartment set moved offstage, leaving only a stylized depiction of the Manhattan skyline. As the moon began to rise above it, Mr. McGrath embraced Ms. Kritzer and said sweetly, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”

“The Honeymooners,” in its best-known incarnation as a CBS series, starred Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows (playing the Kramdens) and Art Carney and Joyce Randolph (as their neighbors, Ed and Trixie Norton), a pair of blue-collar couples with big dreams that perpetually elude them.

The TV show helped establish a lasting template for future generations of sitcoms, including “The Flintstones,” “All in the Family,” “Roseanne”and “The Simpsons.”

The simple dynamics it depicted – the relationship between a man and his wife, and between that man and his best friend – are fundamentals that the cast and creators of the “Honeymooners” musical hope to duplicate.

Read the full article from the New York Times here.

Paper Mill’s World Premiere of The Honeymooners Musical Began September 28

Laura Bell Bundy, Leslie Kritzer, Michael Mastro, and Michael McGrath

Paper Mill Playhouse, by arrangement with Jeffrey Finn, presents the world-premiere production of the new musical comedy The Honeymooners, based on the CBS television series of the same name, beginning September 28.  Music by Stephen Weiner and Lyrics by Peter Mills.

Directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, with choreography by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse, and musical direction and vocal arrangements by Remy Kurs, the production continues at the New Jersey venue through October 29.

The cast is headed by Tony Award winner Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton, Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden, and Tony nominee Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton, with Lewis Cleale as Bryce Bennett, Lewis J. Stadlen as Old Man Faciamatta, and David Wohl as Allen Upshaw.

The ensemble features Holly Ann Butler, Chris Dwan, Hannah Florence, Tessa Grady, Stacey Todd Holt, Ryan Kasprzak, Drew King, Eloise Kropp, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, Alison Solomon, Michael Walters, and Kevin Worley.

Read the full article from Playbill Online here.

WORD BECOMES FLESH, directed by Psalmayene 24 Captivates at Theater Alliance

BWW Review: WORD BECOMES FLESH Captivates at Theater AllianceBack by popular demand (and just in time) WORD BECOMES FLESH is theatre worth doing more than thinking about. This encore presentation written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph with additional dramaturgical compositions by Khalil Anthony and Dahlak Brathwaite and directed by Psalmayene 24 is an arresting composition of dance, hip-hop, music, and spoken word performed by an indefatigable five man ensemble. Louis E. Davis, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham Jr., Gary L. Perkins III, and Justin Weaks, with nary a weak link among them, move with one heartbeat as they perform a series of letters from a young black man to his unborn son and explore what it means to grow up black in the 21st century. Sneakers squeak, sweat drips, music blares, voices reverberate around every corner of the intimate theatre. It’s clear a rebellion is taking shape.

Director Psalmayene 24 does not want us to mistake this work for anything but a rebellion- a peaceful and artistic rebellion. Psalmayene notes the “arsenal of movement, sound, and lights” more powerful than bullets and bombs that the cast and creative team employ. The ensemble dives into the perpetual battle against terrorism African Americans have always faced while giving voice to an all-encompassing anxiety in the face of bringing a child into such an environment.

WORD BECOMES FLESH displays the fullest embodiment of bodies-a physicality so intimately married to the power and complexity of language that it at once feels like an affirmation, a confrontation, and an invitation. You will be left reeling. From the moment the lights gradually come up from total blackout, lighting designer William K. D’Eugenio and sound designer Nick the 1da work in tandem to ensure that we simultaneously see and hear the beating heart of this production. With the support of the entire exceptional creative team, the ensemble takes flight, displaying an impressive range of emotional as they flit in and out of the central voice of the young father.

If you want to see theatre for social change at it’s most potent, check out the Word Becomes Action Festival at Theater Alliance.

Read more from Broadway World here.

MadLab’s Ohio Premiere Production of AND THEN THEY FELL by Tira Palmquist

MadLab’s Ohio premiere production of And Then They Fell by Tira Palmquist will take place Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 6 – 21, 2017, with a special preview performance on Thursday, Oct.5, at MadLab, 227 N. 3rd St., in Columbus. Admission is $18 for the general public, $15 for students and seniors and $13 for MadLab members. Tickets are available online at www.madlab.net.

JorDan Matthews would be fine, if her mother could hold down a decent job, or if her mother hadn’t been arrested on another DUI, or if her mother’s boyfriend wasn’t a skeevy bastard. But things aren’t fine, and Jordan’s life is falling apart. The adults in her life are either impotent or uninterested, and the only solace comes from out of the blue.

Tira Palmquist’s plays include Overburden, Two Degrees (Denver Center), Ten Mile Lake (Serenbe Playhouse), Age of Bees (MadLab Theater, Tesseract), And Then They Fell (Brimmer Street, New York Film Academy). Two Degrees had its World Premiere in the Denver Center’s 2016/17 Season and was also listed in the 2016 Kilroys Honorable Mention List. Ten Mile Lake, which premiered in 2014 at Serenbe Playhouse just outside of Atlanta, GA, was a finalist for the 2015 Primus Prize. Her work as a director and dramaturg includes several seasons at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and the New Territories Playwriting Residency, a program she developed with Brian Clowdus at Serenbe Playhouse in Georgia. More info at www.tirapalmquist.com.

Read more from Broadway World here.