Mitch McCarrell and cast members of Stephen Garvey's The Bardy Bunch, directed by Jay Stern, at Theatre at St. Clements.
Mitch McCarrell and the cast of Stephen Garvey's The Bardy Bunch, directed by Jay Stern, at Theatre at St. Clements.
(© Tom Henning)

Two television families, both alike in dignity, are at each other's throats — literally. A fierce rivalry of Shakespearean proportions has arisen between the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family following the cancellation of their shows, and all of them are bent on vengeance. But can Greg Brady and Laurie Partridge make their star-crossed relationship work anyway? And just how many Partridges must die to appease Carol Brady's bloodlust?

To find out, hie thee to The Bardy Bunch, now playing on the gore-encrusted stage of the Theatre at St. Clement's. Written by Stephen Garvey and directed by Jay Stern, this send-up of two popular 1970s "modern families" combines jaunty music, lively dance, and endless carnage in a Shakespeare-themed extravaganza that at times threatens to impale itself on its own witty rapier, but recovers in its uproarious second half.

For years the Bradys and Partridges have been at each other like Montagues and Capulets. But that can't stop Keith Patridge (Erik Keiser) and Marcia Brady (Cali Elizabeth Moore) from hooking up like Romeo and Juliet, or from scheming to get siblings Greg (Zach Trimmer) and Laurie (Christiana Little) together like an unsuspecting Beatrice and Benedick. Ambitious Carol Brady (Lori Hammel) has other things to worry about. She wants husband Mike (Sean McDermott) to advance his career, and of course the only way to do that is to kill his boss, the Partridges' paterfamilias (Mike Timoney). Son Danny Partridge (Chuck Bradley) who's for real in love with his mother (Kristy Cates), is visited by the ghost of his recently slain father and must avenge his murder, Hamlet-style. Who will be Danny's first unsuspecting victim? Perhaps someone who shall lisp no more.

And so the cycle of revenge, murder, and mayhem is set into motion — as well as to music. As throats are slit and necks are broken, you'll tap your feet to snappy Brady and Partridge chestnuts such as "Sunshine Day," "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted," and "I Think I Love You." And as ghosts rise from the grave to haunt the guilty living, you'll watch as the quick and the dead join together for some thumb-pumping disco-era boogying.

Pitting the Bradys and Partridges against each other like this in a Shakespearean musical feud smacks of campy genius. The jokes can be hit-and-miss, but fine performances from all, including Alex Goley, Chaz Jackson, and Thomas Poarch, help keep the show on target. Danielle Sacks as Tracy Partridge has a wacky delivery all her own; she never fails to elicit a chuckle, even when she's just eyeing one of the other characters. Annie Watkins is irrepressibly funny as suicidal Jan Brady, as is Talisa Friedman as lisping Cindy. The actors are in fine voice, too, with Mitch McCarrell delivering a showstopper with "Brand New Me" and Matthew Dorsey Moore getting solid laughs with his rendition of "Time to Change."

Where the show stumbles is in its insistence on hewing too close to its Shakespearean sources. While it's hilarious to witness Carol Brady possessed by Lady Macbeth's bloodthirsty ambition, it's painful to hear her recite Lady M.'s words of admonition to Macbeth verbatim. Doing so drains all humor from the scene. Similar recitations too frequently lurch out into the open and stall the action. It would have been enough to season this musical with a few sprinkles of the Bard, such as when Alice (the superb Joan Lunoe) says into the telephone, "There's something rotten in the Brady's den, Mark." Writer Garvey, instead, has emptied the whole pepper grinder into the sauce.

Still, if you can sweat out the occasional eye-rolling joke and Shakespeare quote, you'll get a kick out of the camp and over-the-top ridiculousness of this nutty, Bardy piece of work.