A Musical 'Honeymooners?' Does It Go Pow! Zoom!?
Even those who are favorably inclined toward nostalgic recreations of beloved TV shows will find their affections tested in “The Honeymooners,” the lumbering, scattershot musical premiering at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Musical stage adaptations of TV sitcoms have had a history of disappointing at-bats (“Happy Days,” “The Addams Family”) and this outing — which has been in development for several years — won’t do anything to change the stats.
Based on the ’50s TV series that starred Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, the Brooklyn bus driver with dreams of striking it rich, the musical rarely transcends its loopy sitcom sensibility, familiar comic setpieces and syrupy-simple sentiment. Though the hardworking cast conjures a reasonable replica of the sui generis originals, this is a show that evokes not so much the classic sitcom — which ran from 1955 to ’56 — but its television revival 10 years later, when Gleason turned the episodes into mini-musicals for his Miami-based variety show.
“Mini” is the operative word, with the savvy Gleason knowing that Ralph and his sewer-man pal Ed Norton, their endlessly patient wives Alice and Trixie and the show’s thin plots are best taken in sketch-length doses.
But for this musical, book writers Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss go maxi, creating a meandering and seemingly endless storyline, including dream sequences and flashbacks, that has Ralph (Michael McGrath) and Ed (Michael Mastro) winning a jingle contest for an Italian cheese and subsequently getting hired by a big time Madison Avenue ad agency.
The plot is convoluted, padded and eventually tiresome as the show clocks in at more than two and a half hours. Kay and Nuss not-so-deftly stuff catchphrase-filled dialogue and iconography from the series into the scenes, eliciting applause from loyal Kramdenites in the audience. Other appropriations include some “How to Succeed” bits — that don’t. But most problematic is the careless, awkward writing.
The plot is convoluted, padded and eventually tiresome as the show clocks in at more than two and a half hours. Kay and Nuss not-so-deftly stuff catchphrase-filled dialogue and iconography from the series into the scenes, eliciting applause from loyal Kramdenites in the audience.