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Parody that's a bunch of fun

'A Very Brady Musical' at Theatre West revisits the popular and perky TV family.

June 13, 2008|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

Don't look for deep meaning in "A Very Brady Musical" at Theatre West. A parody wrapped in a spoof surrounded by a lampoon, this world premiere musical satire is a study in concentrated silliness.

That's mostly to the good. The show is based on "The Brady Bunch," which ran from 1969 to 1974 -- an era when the American status quo was being rattled by social unrest. For many, the series proved to be the small-box equivalent of comfort food. The cheerfully commingled Brady clan served as a prototype for the "blended family" at a time when the family paradigm was being radically reconfigured.

That's all in retrospect, of course. Sherwood Schwartz, the series creator who executive produces "A Very Brady Musical," couldn't have foreseen what an enduring cultural phenomenon his "Brady" would become. Squeaky-clean and effortlessly affluent, the Bradys appealed because they were so utterly unself-conscious.

That's not the case here. Not that the performers don't play it dead straight. Indeed, these Bradys project a blank-eyed Stepford perkiness that is just right. But the show itself wallows, unapologetically, in pure camp. Subtle, it's not. Fun, it is.

It's fitting that this family satire is also a family affair, creatively speaking. Sherwood's son, Lloyd J. Schwartz, who also directs, co-wrote the book with his sister, Hope Juber, who wrote the music and lyrics with her husband, Laurence Juber. Barbara Mallory, who plays Carol, the Florence Henderson role, is Lloyd's wife.

In most cases, a bit of nepotism pays off. Sometimes the nonsense becomes too far-fetched, and Mallory's limited vocal abilities are obvious among this otherwise accomplished cast. However, the music is infectiously jaunty, and the paper-thin plot serves as sufficient excuse for plenty of tongue-in-cheek naughtiness.

It seems that, three years after tying the knot, Carol is itching to consummate her marriage -- a notion that apparently hasn't occurred to her husband, Mike (John Cygan). Meanwhile, the younger Bradys get the mistaken notion that their parents are divorcing. Anxious to hire a marriage therapist, they set out to make some fast cash, only to have a series of spectacular misadventures land them all in the slammer.

If that sounds insubstantial, it is. But the solid cast scatters the fluff like gleeful kids in a pillow fight. The performers who play the kids are particularly terrific, especially Erin Holt, as the wide-eyed Marcia, pint-sized Kelly Stables as little Cindy, and pouty Adam Conger as the youngest Brady boy, Bobby. As Alice, the cheery, underpaid housekeeper who snaps out good advice like a Pez dispenser, Kathy Garrick combines a twinkle and a belt voice to make the role her own.


'A Very Brady Musical'

Where: Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Ends: July 20

Price: $30

Contact: (323) 851-7977

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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