A Very Brady Musical
Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber Reimagine the Family Business
by Ronald Sklar
For the producers of The Brady Bunch, it was more like Family Affair.
Creator Sherwood Schwartz (who also gave the world Gilligan’s Island) worked closely with his son, Lloyd, and still does. However, for those five sunshine-day seasons on ABC, the Schwartz team lived, loved and laughed along with TV’s last truly happy family, both on camera and off.
“I’m proud that we were – and probably still are – the only father-son producer team in the business,” Lloyd says. “It was surprising to me to learn that. It called for a lot of give and take and he would often depend on me.
“I think he taught me about how to be a human in this business. There was only one thing more important than the show, and that’s the people in the show. You don’t find that in many producers. He was always very even-handed, and on every show I’ve ever worked on with him, everybody wound up calling him Dad. He is very, very decent.”
Also included in the mix was Sherwood’s daughter, Hope (named after Bob Hope, for whom Sherwood wrote comic material in the 1940s). True Brady Bunch fans know Hope’s occasional but key appearances on the series, as Greg’s tolerant girlfriend Rachel, and in a totally heartbreaking role as Marcia’s best friend who was unfairly blacklisted from an overnight sleepover.
“Whenever Greg was at the drive-in, I tended to go with him,” she says. “I was also uninvited to Marcia’s slumber party. I’m still not over that. I don’t understand it.”
Not to worry. Things have gotten better for Hope. She is now married to former Paul McCartney & Wings guitarist Laurence Juber (with whom she has two grown children). Together they have written the lyrics and music to Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, which is produced by the Schwartz team and is currently touring the country.
Also coming to a theatre near you – in the very near future – will be a live, staged musical version of The Brady Bunch, entitled A Very Brady Musical. It’s produced by Sherwood and Lloyd (with a score by Hope and Laurence) and currently being workshopped in LA.
Apparently, the Bradys have more than made up for their snub of Hope at the slumber party.
“I still have the sleeping bag,” she says.
eBay, here we come!
Lloyd explains, “Do you know how the Brady kids always have to raise money, for silver platters and things like that? Well, in this particular case, they hear a terrible argument from their parents, which turns out not to be real. The kids decide that that their parents need a therapist. So each of them goes into a different world to be able to raise money.
“Greg has a taxicab service, so we do a song a little bit like in Grease. Peter does a magic show with Jan as his assistant and that’s a little bit like Barnum. It’s kind of a Bradysalute to musicals.”
Like everything else Brady, it sort of has to be seen to be believed, and even then it’s up to you; however, if you’re in on the joke and you have Brady on the brain, you should have no issues.
As every Brady had claimed at one time or another, “it will be sensational!”
Lloyd says, “In the Brady musical, there are a lot of [series] references. We know just about everything there is to know about Brady. We sink things in along the line.”
Squeezing more milk from the Brady cash cow has always been a cinch. At least three generations (and counting) cannot get enough of the Bunch, and since it has always been an effective painkiller, they will take it in any form it is prescribed, from spinoffs to variety shows to post-ironic movies to staged spoofs.
Marcia’s first boyfriend, Harvey Klinger, may have asked it most correctly: “Why? Why? One of the mysteries of the animal kingdom.”
Lloyd, however, may have an answer.
“It was the first of those shows that was told from a kid’s point of view,” he says. “Most of those family shows focused on the parents. But Dad felt that the kids would have a tougher time getting involved in the parents’ problems.”
Hope adds, “The kids’ problems could still be related to today. The kids still get braces today. They still have freckles today. Because you are dealing with the kind of issues that are usually important to kids, no matter what age, either today or back then, it’s still relatable.”
Lloyd says, “I think where Dad’s real genius lies is that he decided that there wouldn’t be any ‘freak’ kids. No Fonzie, no Michael J. Fox. No catchphrases. Even the phrase ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’ was only said in one episode. Kids relate to the kids as real kids. There really wasn’t much difference between who Eve [Plumb] was and who Jan was, and for all the characters.”
For Hope and Lloyd, however, the Brady burden did not rest as heavily on their shoulders as it did for those on the front lines.
Regarding the non-stop recognition the cast members still get from the general public to this day (almost four decades after the series was cancelled), Lloyd says, “I completely sympathize and I appreciate the ones who embrace it. The ones who try to deny it, I think, their lives would be so much easier if they didn’t do that. But I never had to walk in their shoes. I never had to walk down the street and have people talk to me about something I did when I was twelve.”
“Or walking down the street,” Hope adds, “and every time you pass somebody, you hear the character’s name. I would walk with Maureen [McCormick] and all you would hear behind her was this wave of voices saying, ‘Marcia!’ You’ve got to have enormous respect for people who can keep their sanity amongst all of that.”
“There have been kid actors who have risen above that,” Lloyd says. “There are the Sally Fields of the world, and the Ron Howards. Even Susan Dey. They had a career beyond that. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who just say that ‘I’ve been typecast and I could never get out of it.’
“Barry [Williams] was smart. When he left the Bradys, he started taking real acting lessons. All we wanted from the Brady kids was for them to be comfortable in front of the camera. To be who they were. They never really learned to act, through that process. Barry approached it as a professional, and the others have had varying degrees of success. I’m pleased that none of them are dead, none of them are prostitutes and none of them are in jail.”
High praise, considering these times that try men’s souls, even pure Brady souls. Of course, the new musical, like the satirical Brady movie that caused a sensation back in the 90s, has to ride with the times, in order to take more people along.
Hope says, “I think that because it is today and because people have changed a bit, we did have to take that into consideration upon writing the musical. If we did do a warm, family, sixties-seventies-type musical, I’m not sure how it would play on a stage. We had to give our tip of the hat to all things that we find ironic, funny, amusing, and adult-relatable about The Brady Bunch.”
“The show always was what it was,” Lloyd adds. “The Brady Bunch doesn’t represent my taste as much as it did Dad’s. I come from the sixties. My taste is much more The Brady Bunch Movie. I had worked on Airplane. I like satire. I feel very comfortable moving into the quote-unquote newer kinds of comedy. I just think there is room for everything. I think a Brady show now that is a little updated could be a major hit.”
Don’t doubt it for a minute, coming from a family who knows how to score, both musically and culturally. Their other phenom, Gilligan’s Island, is now in musical form and sure to get a smile from thousands of theatergoers.
“We’ve had about sixty productions,” Lloyd says. “We’re starting a national tour with off-Broadway bookings. That’s going to start in Cleveland in January. It’s not as satirical as The Brady Bunch Movie was, but it’s a little tongue and cheek. It’s a little larger than the series was. The idea there, as always, is that people don’t know each other when they get shipwrecked, and then they bond together as they defeat a common enemy, as they try to get off the island. That’s going to be the Gilligan story no matter what you do.”
No matter what they do, it seems, they are turning heads. And now, they are turning music into gold.
For information on the Los Angeles run of A Very Brady Musical, opening June 6, 2008, visit www.theatrewest.org.
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 18, 2008.
|#1 ©2008. Courtesy of Theatre West.|
|#2 Lloyd Schwartz and Sherwood Schwartz. Courtesy of Lloyd Schwartz.|
|#3 Hope Juber. Courtesy of Hope Juber.|