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.