Another TV classic has found itself in a musical, this time being The Beverly Hillbillies. Credited as one of the most popular shows of all time, The Beverly Hillbillies aired from 1962 through 1971 and told the story of a backwoods family that found wealth in oil and then migrated to stuffy Beverly Hills where they were completely out of their element. Most of us are already familiar with the Clampett clan headed by the all too honest and often naïve Jed and his short-tempered nevertheless often sweet Granny, who would choose eating possum innards any day over y’alls favorite fine dining establishments. Jed’s daughter, tomboy yet bombshell Elly May is along for the ride with his ever so gullible nephew Jethro, who is as dumb as dumb gets – and we love him for it.
Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana (30 minutes from downtown Chicago) has taken on the world premiere of “The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical” where our favorite family from the sticks will grace the stage through August 10th. The book is shared by the team of Tony-nominated David Rogers, who passed away before its completion, and daughter Amanda, who took over from where her father left off. Composer Gregg Opelka was then called in to handle the music and lyrics. The final result is a lukewarm comedy with a wide assortment of songs, some hitting and some missing. One of the more memorable numbers comes as Act One’s closing number - “Stamp It Like A Clampett”, a rootin’ tootin’ hoedown- throw-down that gets the audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet. Thereis just enough intrigue in the storyline to keep it interesting as the Clampetts are getting hustled for some of their millions by a couple of quirky grifters and there is just enough Beverly Hillbilly-esque humor to bring out a plausible amount of laughs.
As sure as Granny’s cooking is sure to cure what ails ya, Theatre at the Center puts forth a strong cast for this production. Local theatre trouper and Jeff-Award winner James Harms leads the way as “Jed” while Kelly Anne Clark can be downright adorable at times as “Granny”. The Clampetts are rounded out with fellow Jeff-Award winner Summer Smart romping around as the innocent, wide-eyed and button poppin’ “Elly May”, while John Stemberg gets his dumb on as likeable and simple “Jethro”. Thanks to this talented foursome, we have an assemblage of heartwarming country bumpkins who are still capable of occasionally tugging at our heartstrings despite not having the strongest of material to work with.
The show does have a strong visual presence as it is set inside a large mansion complete with more than ample square footage for the actors to freely frolic around. Its defining prop also makes a welcomed appearance much to the audience’s delight – the Clampett’s famous jalopy complete with Granny aboard her rocking chair in the bed of the truck as seen in the TV series’ opening credits.
The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical, directed by David Perkovich, has just the adequate share of happy-as-a-raccoon-up-to-its-knees-in-vittles moments and downhome fun to keep it on the cusp of sufficiently entertaining, making it hard to imagine this becoming a musical comedy that will go down in theatre history.
For tickets and/or more information on The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical, visit http://www.theatreatthecenter.com/ or call 219-836-3255.