In 2011 I saw a remarkable work at the New York Fringe Festival. The Bardy Bunch is an ingenious “musical situation comedy of errors,” in which characters from The Brady Bunch are pitted against those from The Partridge Family in a feud inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Oh, and with songs from the old TV shows, no less. What’s not to adore?
Well, some producers did adore it, and now the show is about to start a limited run off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clemens. For heaven’s sake, don’t miss it. And while you wait, here’s an interview I did with Stephen Garvey, who masterminded and wrote The Bardy Bunch:
BUSKER ALLEY: How dare you taint the hallowed relics of good old American television with the hoity-toity perfumes of Shakespeare? Defend yourself!
STEPHEN GARVEY: We were very concerned about how Brady and Partridge purists would feel about our sullying the dialogue from those classic sitcoms with all that Shakespeare tripe, but as it turns out, the Bard and these shows go great together…like pork chops and applesauce!
BA: Indeed, in his day Shakespeare was never seen as elitist, but as a storyteller everyone could enjoy after a long day at work, very much like a sitcom.
Is The Bardy Bunch a one-off, or can you envision any other mash-up of TV (or Hollywood) with theatrical or literary masterworks?
SG: Without giving away secrets, Director Jay Stern and I are working on another mash-up. All I’m at liberty to say is it focuses on a different decade AND the music will be original. The Bardy Bunch taught us many lessons about licensing the performing rights to other people’s songs!
BA: Oh, that’s an enticing tease!
Now, to the academic portion of this chat: Besides Romeo & Juliet, what other Shakespearean allusions should we watch for in The Bardy Bunch? And was that the plan from the start, or did elements of other plays creep in as you wrote?
SG: From the very start, the idea was to assign a different Shakespearean character and story arc to each Brady and Partridge. Romeo and Juliet takes front and center, but there are over a dozen Shakespearean plotlines sprinkled throughout The Bardy Bunch, from Macbeth to Much Ado About Nothing to Othello to Hamlet to As You Like It... There’s even a sonnet reference!
BA: Clearly, I’d better dig up my Shakespearean Cliff’s Notes Omnibus before I see your show again.
The Bard is timeless and universally respected, but I dare say visiting aliens would have trouble believing The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were important elements of our culture. In your opinion, what explains the enduring appeal of these shows?
SG: The lasting power of these shows is truly amazing. I think for people in their late-thirties, forties and fifties, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family represent childhood…coming home from school, making a Fluffernutter, and kicking back to these sitcoms, which in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were on ALL THE TIME. But the appeal goes beyond that demo. Most of our cast is in their twenties and they love the shows, too, and so does my seven-year-old daughter. I just think there’s a very loving spirit to both
programs that’s very easy to glide into, like a cozy pair of slippers…or a bathrobe. Those families really loved their bathrobes. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge for a Fluffernutter.
BA: And now I want one, too. Thanks, Stephen Garvey, and much success with The Bardy Bunch.