To ‘Brady’ or not to ‘Brady?: Show crossing Shakespeare themes, ‘70s TV to make Chicago debut


G-Jun Yam

Olivia Renteria, center, and Erin McGrath, right, star as Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge in “The Bardy Bunch,” which will open in Chicago on Sept. 15.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

Chicago will soon be the only place where two beloved families brutally murder each other in hilarious fashion, all while singing sappy love songs.

“The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady” is set to run at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Sept. 15 through Nov. 20.

The off-Broadway parody and mash-up musical pits the Partridge and Brady families of ‘70s sitcom fame against each other in a deadly feud directly inspired by 12 Shakespearian plotlines. It premiered to critical acclaim at the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival.

“[‘The Bardy Bunch’] is a tragedy,” director Jay Stern said. “There’s a lot of violence and murder. It follows the rules of Shakespearian tragedy. People are going to be shocked how that plays out.”

Because “The Bardy Bunch” has retained its writer-director duo of Stephen Garvey and Jay Stern throughout its five-year existence, the show has evolved based on audience and crew feedback, Garvey said. The show was even adapted to a cabaret for a special run in New York City and will contain two new songs for Chicago’s run, according to Garvey.

“We’re always looking at the show and what we could do to improve it,” Garvey said. “Audience response is always a big indicator of changes that need to be made.”

Stern said moving the show to Chicago is a chance to start fresh. 

“Chicago talent is great,” Stern said. “The acting quality here alone is enough to warrant [using local actors].”

Joe Janes, an adjunct professor in the Theatre Department and Comedy Writing professor at The Second City Training Center, has yet to see the show but said he is skeptical because parodies can rely too much on their premises.

Stern and Garvey admitted the show could sound more like a short comedy sketch than great theater but said they have done their best to make the show transcend parody mash-up stereotypes.

“Getting the tone right is very tricky,” Stern said. “[My approach] is to treat it as seriously and as real as possible.”

Stern said while the characters of “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family” are one-dimensional due to the sitcom format, there is an underlying passion and emotion to them. 

Chicago-based actress Tina Gluschenko, recently cast as  Brady housekeeper, Alice Nelson, said the show is more character-driven than most parodies.

“[Stern] was specific in saying he doesn’t want impersonations of the characters,” Gluschenko said. “He wants us to find things to bring them to life, like their speech patterns or the way they move.”

“The Bardy Bunch” features several songs from its source material, most notably including “I Think I Love You” and “It’s a Sunshine Day” from “The Partridge Family” and “The Brady Bunch,” respectively.

Garvey said he is optimistic the musical’s Chicago run will prove to be successful.

“The dance numbers are extraordinary,” Garvey said. “People are going to hear ‘Partridge’ and ‘Brady’ songs they know and love, but they’ve never heard them the way they’ve been arranged and presented here.”