...As Told By A Young Buck Who's Hardly Seen the T.V. Show
Yes, the rumors are true. I am merely a lad who has just had his twenty-third name day. What do I know about a poor mountaineer named Jed, who for whatever the reason may be, could barely keep his family fed? Sure, I know that he wasn't the best shot with a rifle. Aside from that, I know that this man was a hillbilly; a Beverly hillbilly. The question of "what does it mean?" racked my brain for years. I decided I needed to solve this dilemma. The world premiere of The Beverly Hillbillies-The Musical at Theatre at the Center might be my only shot.
Like Jed staring down a beautiful buck, I had to take the shot. Boy did my fortunes change. Who would have thought a musical could do this for me? Here's a breakdown of what you can expect when you go to see The Beverly Hillbillies-The Musical.
1) The wise musings of a brilliant young scholar they call, "Jethro."
It's humbling to learn a thing or two from a man who goes to Oxford. It's not the traditional Oxford, per se, but rather the one where the oxen used to ford the creek. Nonetheless, Cousin Jethro played by the show-stealing John Stemberg taught me my "go-zin-tas," or how to manage three beautiful women before losing all of them and how to wear a powder blue suit the right way. Full of smiles and never-ending charm, Stemberg will make you rub your eyes and double check that there's not a time traveler on stage. With a singing voice that could milk a cow without the use of hands, Stemberg is sure to blow you away.
Cousin Jethro is lovably dumb and everything you remember from the television show. The ladies love him. Jethro himself is worth the price of admission. Stemberg's comfort with the character will ease you along through the show. Without Cousin Jethro, how would our lovable Clampetts ever make it to Beverly Hills?
2) I dare say that we have ourselves a case of blackmail!
When hundreds of millions of dollars come into your possession from little to no effort, some extended "family" members are sure to come and try to get their share. You'll be in for a treat when little Miss Emaline comes to visit her Ozark family. She brings a cuckoo clock and a devious plot to trap rich and love-struck Jed. Without giving too much more away, know that when a Southern gentleman with a Foghorn Leghorn accent and a mustache that could make Colonel Sanders blush comes into the fold, trouble has arrived.
"Will the Clampetts ever survive this treachery in Beverly Hills when it's crawling with southern swindlers?" I asked myself aloud at a rather inopportune time mid-play. I can't answer this question for you right now. All I can say is that by this time in the show, Granny is fed up and she's threatening to leave Beverly Hills!
3) Kelly Anne Clark's Granny.
When I say Granny is fed up, know that I'm trying to put myself in her shoes. She's come a long way from home and all this poor woman wants to do is some figurin' and fishin' by the brand new pool. Is that too much to ask? Is she allowed to fish in peace? No! You would think it's because there are no fish in the pool, but that's not even close to being the reason.
There's always some bonehead coming up to her with their problems, or their grumbling stomachs, or their Southern accents and she has had it! What makes this worse is that Granny has a heart. She's always helping the Clampetts in one way or another. Whether it's getting Elly May into a dress or helping Jethro make sense of his pretty women problems, Granny is there for the family. Is the family there for her when she falls for a man thirty years her minor like a log down a waterfall? No!
This poor woman, played by the terrific Kelly Anne Clark, has a man tugging at her heartstrings and singing that perfect song in her ear, but the family is too caught up trying to stop a fraud. Will she marry the love of her life or head back home to the hills she once knew? Both are valid questions and can only be answered by seeing the show.
4) Stamp it Like a Clampett!
I've laid out a pretty brief synopsis of the show so far without hardly any mention of the songs. How ridiculous, right? Well, the time has come. During your stay at TATC, 17 songs will be belted out by Jed, Elly May, Granny, Jethro and the rest of the cast. Let me just say that Mr. Drysdale's lust for money will bring a tear to your eye in "Whatever is good for you is great for me." Mr. Drysdale loves money deeply and it brings a tear to my eye to hear one confess their love as such.
Nearly the whole cast has their moment in the spotlight. All of the music is fully backed by a six person orchestra neatly tucked away behind the stage. The wonderful Gregg Opelka composed the score in his TATC debut. The musical numbers are just the right touch to transition between scenes. If your crowd is anything like the one I sat with, ovations will come at the end of each tune and deservedly so. There's not a flat vocal chord from any of the performers. The cast makes the morning birds seem nothing more than irritable squawkers.
5) The stage looks straight from a television screen.
If I could put into words the ovation that the stage reveal was given, I would. To be frank, I wouldn't be surprised if family doctors are booked for months because every jaw in the room dropped. One enters the theater and sees only a tiny backdrop, but it's just a farce. As the Clampetts make their way down to Beverly Hills, the stage transforms into the classic mansion backdrop you have come to know and love from every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.
It's amazing to see what a smaller budgeted production can produce. Everything you know and love from the balcony to the kitchen made its way onto the Munster stage. Stemberg, when talking about the quality of the backdrop said, "This set is sturdy. I'm a 230-pound simpleton running up and down these steps. The union would be proud of what's been built."
The production is everything you'd imagine it would be. It's not just some thrown together Ikea project. Everything from the wardrobe down to the front doors is exactly how you would have imagined. Theatre At the Center outdid itself with the stage value.
Theatre at the Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana. The Beverly Hillbillies- The Musical is playing until August 10. Tickets can be found online here. To purchase by phone, call the box office at 219-838-3255. What on Earth are you waiting for? Go and see it!