Paper Mill Playhouse’s “The Honeymooners,” with music by Stephen Weiner, lyrics by Peter Mills, and book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, based on the classic early television show, gives 21st century audiences a chance to experience what our grandparents and great grandparents did–the immediacy of live comedy in a teleplay! And now it’s a musical! Truly this is an Autumn gift.
Many of us grew up on re-runs of one of the first shows to highlight working class people, “The Honeymooners!” Set in Brooklyn, we had two regular guys, Ralph is a bus driver and Ed is a sewer worker. Their wives are Alice and Trixie, respectively and the show originally aired on October 1, 1955. More than 62 years later, this world premiere musical takes us back to a more nostalgic time, though not a simpler one.
Ralph Kramden (Michael McGrath) has been driving a bus for 15 years and when we begin, he is starting a hopeful day, when he looks forward to hearing he is getting a promotion to Dispatch. His wife Alice (Leslie Kritzer) brings him back to Earth, even as she works to put his mettle in fettle. She loves and supports him, but Ralph is a dreamer, so doesn’t always see things clearly.
Ed Norton (Michael Mastro) is Ralph’s true blue buddy and, let’s just say, he’s a philosopher, with a touch of whimsy. Actually, it’s a great big wham of whimsy. His wife Trixie (Laura Bell Bundy) is a sassy, sexy former Burlesque queen, who’s thinking about getting back into the biz. Her former flame has made her an offer to headline her own show, and we see the tendrils of conflict begin in both homes. When the boys write a winning jingle for a product they love, their lives change in some serious ways and this textured musical really takes off!
The portrayals of these famous characters pay homage to the brilliance of early television and they are each an absolute gem. Each one faceted beautifully and differently, they shine individually. Together, they are truly a treasure. My personal favorite is Alice. Kritzer plays her with great pathos and love, and never for a moment do we doubt Alice’s affection, even as she continually makes sure Ralph’s back on Earth, rather than having his head in the clouds. And the many moments in the musical are beautiful. This show plays your heart strings like a guitar and you’ll love every minute of it!
The ensemble is powerful as well. The bus drivers were everywhere and boy, can they dance! Kudos to Chris Dwan, Stacey Todd Holt, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, and Kevin Worley, who make quite the crew for Ralph. Joined in the opening number by Holly Butler and Tessa Grady, they set the bar high for the show. And they deliver–to the Moon and back!
Tired of the world outside? Take a step back in time, to black and white television and apartment living in the wee burg of Bensonhurst, but do it soon! Ralph’s shift is over October 29, 2017, so get your tickets NOW. Visit www.PaperMill.org