‘Honeymooners’ musical begins world premiere tonite at Paper Mill

Not many Americans are alive today who watched the original broadcast of “The Honeymooners,” the iconic TV show created by Jackie Gleason that has morphed into a limited run world premiere musical  (after two previous attempts) that begins performances today (Sept. 28) at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and probably is Broadway bound.

It’s based on the 1950s CBS television series that featured Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden;  Audrey Meadows his as faithful but sharp-tongued wife Alice,  Art Carney as his best friend Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Joyce Randolph and best friend to Alice.

Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955
Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955

Coming full circle, Gleason’s skits about working-class married couples in a gritty Brooklyn apartment originally  were broadcast live in front of a theater audience on the DuMont network’s variety series “Cavalcade of Stars,” which Gleason hosted, and subsequently on the CBS network’s “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1951–55).

​Two previous versions of “The Honeymooners” were attempted. In 2013, the show was pulled from schedule at the The Old Globe in San Diego. A new musical adaptation  had been slated to run at  Goodspeed in East Haddam, Conn., but was cancelled in March 2015.  The Goodspeed cancellation marks the second time a production of “The Honeymooners” musical has been scrapped. In 2013, the show was pulled from schedule at the The Old Globe in San Diego.

At the Paper Mill,  direction is by Tony Award-winner John Rando (who won a Tony in 2002 for directing “Urinetown”), choreography by Emmy Award-winner Joshua Bergasse,  book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, music by Stephen Weiner, lyrics by Peter Mills and with musical direction and vocal arrangements by Remy Kurs.

Art Carney as Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Trixie, played by Joyce Randolph
Art Carney as Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Trixie, played by Joyce Randolph.

Principal cast features Tony Award -winner Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton,  Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden, and Tony Award-nominee Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton. Lewis J. Stadlen plays Old Man Faciamatta, Lewis Cleale is Bryce Bennett, and David Wohl is Allen Upshaw. 

The production team includes set design by , costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Jason Lyons, sound design by Kai Harada, hair, wig & makeup design by Leah J. Loukas, with orchestrations by Doug Besterman and dance arrangements by Sam Davis. The production stage manager is Timothy R. Semon. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Patrick Goodwin, CSA.

“The Honeymooners” ended in the mid-1950s but enjoyed renewed popularity with a younger audience in reruns. In May 1952 there were 16,939,100 television sets in use in the United States, roughly half found in just 10 markets in big cities (according to numbers published in the May 4th, 1952, edition of New York Times and credited to NBC.) The article further noted that three out of five families capable of receiving television signals had a television set.)

It will be interesting to see who the audience is for this musical. Fans who remember the original “Honeymooners”  would  to be in their mid-70s at least, and older.  The final episode of “The Honeymooners” aired on Sept. 22, 1956, although Gleason revived the characters sporadically until 1978, according to Wikipedia

“Inspired by the classic television series,” according to the press release, Ralph  and Ed win a high-profile jingle contest and are  catapulted out of Brooklyn and into the cutthroat world of Madison Avenue advertising, where they discover that their quest for the American Dream might cost them their friendship.

The musical adaptation of the TV show, which centers on the lives of two working-class couples living in the same building in Brooklyn, is being directed by John Rando,

 “The Honeymooners ensemble features Holly Ann Butler, Chris Dwan, Hannah Florence, Tessa Grady, Stacey Todd Holt, Ryan Kasprzak, Drew King, Eloise Kropp, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, Alison Solomon, Michael Walters, and Kevin Worley.

Performances Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $34. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online atwww.PaperMill.org. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. Students may order $23 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse box office on the day of the performance.

THE REST OF THE SEASON

” Annie,” “The Outsider” (East Coast Premiere) “The Sting, a new musical (World Premiere), and “Half Time, a new musical” (East Coast Premiere)

SUBSCRIPTIONS

5-show, 4-show, and 3-show packages are available with outstanding benefits, including significant savings up to 40%. To subscribe, call 973.379.3717, visit PaperMill.org or come to the Paper Mill Box Office.

CAST CREDITS

Screen grab of Michael McGrath's Facebook page.  Michael McGrath (Ralph Kramden). Broadway: The Front Page, She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century, Nice Work If You Can Get It (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Born Yesterday, Memphis, Is He Dead?, Spamalot (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), Wonderful Town, Little Me, Swinging on a Star (Theatre World Award, Drama Desk nomination), The Goodbye Girl, My Favorite Year. City Center Encores!: Du Barry Was a Lady, The Boys from Syracuse, Follies. Off Broadway: The Government Inspector, The Cocoanuts, Forbidden Broadway, The Butter and Egg Man. TV: The Martin Short Show. Film: Changing Lanes, The Interpreter, Ira & Abby.

Michael Mastro (Ed Norton). Broadway: West Side Story, Twelve Angry Men, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Mamma Mia!, Judgement at Nuremberg, Side Man, Barrymore (with Christopher Plummer), Love! Valour! Compassion!. Off Broadway: Volpone (Red Bull), Any Given Monday

Michael Mastro plays Ed Norton in the Paper Mill Playhouse world premiere of "The Honeymooners."
Michael Mastro plays Ed Norton in the Paper Mill Playhouse world premiere of “The Honeymooners.”

(59E59/Act Two), and others. Regional: Paper Mill (twice previously!), Shakespeare Theatre DC, Dallas Theater Center, North Shore Music Theatre, Old Globe, Penguin Rep, Williamstown, George Street Playhouse (two seasons as resident artistic director). Film: Kissing Jessica Stein, The Night We Never Met, Jungle 2 Jungle. TV: HBO’s new film about Joe Paterno, Law and Order: SVU, Nurse Jackie, Magic City, Alias. Member: Actors’ Equity, Actors Center.

Leslie Kritzer (Alice Kramden). Broadway: Sondheim on SondheimA Catered Affair (Drama Desk nomination), Legally Blonde, Elf and Hairspray. Off-Broadway and regional credits include Judas and Me,

Leslie Kritzer is Alice Kramdon un "The Honeymooners." (PHOTO: Playbill)
Leslie Kritzer is Alice Kramdon un “The Honeymooners.” (PHOTO: Playbill)

Rooms: A Rock Romance (Outer Critics Circle nomination), On The Town (Encores!), The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Drama Desk nomination), Bat BoyGodspellThe Memory ShowDamn Yankees, the world premiere of POP! (Yale Rep),  Three Generations (Kennedy Center), CabaretBorn Yesterday, the world premiere of VanitiesUrinetown (National Tour), Evita, and Funny Girl (Paper Mill Playhouse). She has performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall as a guest soloist honoring Tim Rice and Alan Menken. Film credits include “17 Photos of Isabel.” Television credits include “3 LBS” (CBS) and “Jason and Jessica” (HBO).

Laura Bell Bundy (Trixie Norton) happily returns to Paper Mill, where she played Dainty June in Gypsy. Originated Tina Denmark in Ruthless (OCC, Drama Desk nominations), Amber Von Tussle in  Hairspray, and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (Tony, OCC, Drama Desk nominations); played Glinda in Wicked. TV: Good Behavior, Scream Queens, How I Met Your Mother, Anger Management, Hart of Dixie, Documentary Now, Royal Pains, Cold Case, Veronica Mars, Guiding Light, many more. Film: Dreamgirls, Jumanji, Life with Mikey, and others. Her album Achin’ and Shakin’ debuted in the top 5 on Billboard’s country charts, CMT nomination for breakout video of the year. Created, directed, and produced LBBTV web series Cooter County and Skits-O-Frenic.

Lewis Cleale (Bryce Bennett) Broadway: The Book of Mormon, Sondheim On Sondheim,  Spamalot, Amour, Once Upon A Mattress, Swinging On A Star. Off Broadway: A New Brain, The Fantasticks, Time And Again, Call Me Madam (Encores!) TV: “Elementary,” “BrainDEAD.” Lewis voiced Cliff the troll in Disney’s FROZEN.

Lewis J. Stadlen (Old Man Faciamatta). Broadway: The Front Page, The Nance, Fish in the Dark, The Producers, The Man Who Came to Dinner (Drama Desk Award nomination),Laughter on the 23rd Floor, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Tony Award nomination), The Female Odd Couple, Candide (Tony Award nomination), The Sunshine Boys,Minnie’s Boys (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World Awards). Some of his better films include Serpico, The Verdict, To Be or Not to Be, and In & Out. He has been seen on television in Damages, The Sopranos, and Smash.

David Wohl (Allen Upshaw) Paper Mill Playhouse: The Diary of Anne Frank. Broadway: Golden Boy, Fiddler on the Roof, Dinner at Eight, The Man Who Had All the Luck. Regional: Weston, Pittsburgh Public, Huntington, Bucks County, Victory Gardens, Goodspeed; older: Williamstown, George Street, LaJolla, Taper, Cincinnati. Off-Broadway: E.S.T., Rattlestick, Playwrights Horizons, TFANA,Abingdon. Film (recent): Asher, The Boy Downstairs, Are You Joking?; (earlier): The Wackness, Saving Private Ryan, Hot Shots Part Deux, Brewster’s Millions, Revenge of the Nerds, Sophie’s Choice. Recent television: recurring on “Madame Secretary;” older includes series regulars on “Brooklyn Bridge,” “D.E.A.,” “Once a Hero,” and the animated “Hey Arnold.”

Dusty Kay (Book) is a television writer and producer. As supervising producer of Entourage, he received Emmy and Writers Guild Award nominations. As supervising producer ofRoseanne, he received a prescription for blood pressure medication. Dusty wrote and produced the television movie Triplecross (ABC), was supervising producer of Early Edition, and was creator and executive producer of the critically acclaimed Once a Hero (ABC).

Bill Nuss (Book) is a television show runner, writer, and producer. He has produced, written, or created over 300 hours of network prime-time series. In addition to Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS, he worked with his mentor, the late Stephen J. Cannell, on Fox’s first hit, 21 Jump Street starring Johnny Depp, Booker, The A-Team, and the NBC television movie The Return of Hunter: Everyone Walks in L.A. starring Fred Dryer and Miguel Ferrer. Bill was the creator and executive producer of Pacific Blue starring Mario Lopez. The show was USA Network’s highest-rated series during its reign.

Stephen Weiner (Music). Winner of two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Theatre Wing’s Jonathan Larson Grant, ASCAP Foundation’s Richard Rodgers Award, and the Global Search for New Musicals; Drama Desk, Lortel, and Obie nominations. Off Broadway: Iron Curtain (lyrics by Peter Mills, book by Susan DiLallo); Once Upon a Time in New Jersey (book and lyrics by Susan DiLallo); MTC’s newyorkers. Readings: The Hudsucker Proxy (book and lyrics by Glenn Slater); Rocket Science (book by Patricia Cotter, lyrics by Jason Rhyne); Spittin’ Image (book by Karin Kasdin, lyrics by Laura Szabo Cohen); The Rivals (book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg). ASCAP and Dramatists Guild member.

Peter Mills (Lyrics) wrote the score, with Stephen Weiner, for Off Broadway’s Iron Curtain (book by Susan DiLallo), also seen at NAMT, the O’Neill Center, and the Village Theatre. As a composer-lyricist, Peter’s shows include Illyria, The Taxi Cabaret, and Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge. Peter has won the Kleban Prize, Fred Ebb Award, the ASCAP Foundation’s Richard Rodgers Award and Cole Porter Award, and a Jonathan Larson Grant, and he received two Drama Desk Award nominations for The Pursuit of Persephone (outstanding music, outstanding orchestrations.) He is a founding member of Prospect Theater Company and a graduate of NYU’s Musical Theatre Writing Program.

 John Rando (Director) Selected Broadway: On the Town (Tony nomination), Penn & Teller on Broadway, A Christmas Story, The Wedding Singer, Urinetown (Tony and Outer Critics Circle Awards), A Thousand Clowns, The Dinner Party. Off Broadway: Lives of the Saints, The Heir Apparent (SDCF Callaway Award), All in the Timing (Obie Award), The Toxic Avenger,among others. Recent regional: Pirates of Penzance (Barrington), Big Sky (Geffen Playhouse). City Center Encores!: The New Yorkers, Annie Get Your Gun, Little Me, It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, On the Town, Damn Yankees, Face the Music, Strike Up the Band, Do Re Mi, The Pajama Game, Of Thee I Sing. He also directed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel for the New York Philharmonic.

Joshua Bergasse (Choreographer) won an Emmy Award for his choreography for Smash on NBC. Other television: So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), Sinatra: Voice for a Century (PBS), Jessica Jones (Netflix), A Capitol Fourth (PBS). On Broadway Bergasse choreographed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, On the Town (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations; Astaire Award), and Gigi. Off Broadway: Sweet Charity (Lortel nomination), Cagney (Drama Desk, OCC, Astaire nominations; Callaway Award finalist), Bomb-itty of Errors, Captain Louie. City Center Encores!: The Golden Apple, Little Me, It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!. Bergasse teaches at Broadway Dance Center and Steps in New York City.

Remy Kurs (Music Director, Vocal Arrangements) Broadway: The Book of Mormon (also music director for the 1st National Tour). Off-Broadway: Ride the Cyclone (MCC), music supervisor and orchestrator for Invisible Thread (Second Stage). With Prospect Theater Co. in NYC: Iron Curtain, I Married Wyatt Earp, Once Upon a Time in New Jersey, The Hidden Sky,and more. Regional: Witness Uganda (ART), Iron Curtain (Village Theatre).

Doug Besterman (Orchestrations) Since 1992, Doug has been in-demand as an arranger/orchestrator for Broadway shows, films, and recordings – past projects include: The Producers (stage and film), Chicago (film), Sister Act (stage), How to Succeed (stage) and Nine (film). He has been privileged to work with some of the most recognizable names in the industry, including composers Mel Brooks and Alan Menken, recording artists Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow, and directors Rob Marshall and Susan Stroman. He has also earned some of the industry’s top honors, including 3 Tony Awards, 2 Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy Award nomination.

Sam Davis (Dance Arrangements). Broadway credits as arranger, orchestrator and/or conductor include An American in Paris, Prince of Broadway, Holiday Inn, Gigi, Side Show, Drood, Big Fish, Scandalous, and Curtains.  As composer: Bunnicula, Red Eye of Love, Love and Real Estate (all off-Broadway), The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare in the Park.) Regional: Little Dancer and The Trumpet of the Swan (the Kennedy Center), Stilyagi (NY Stage & Film). Film & TV: Hail Caesar, Beauty and the Beast (2017), and “Good Behavior.” Recordings include Love on a Summer Afternoon (P.S. Classics) and the original cast albums of Bunnicula (Yellow Sound) and Red Eye of Love (Ghostlight.) Winner of the Jonathan Larson Award and a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music.

Beowulf Boritt (Scenic Design). Paper Mill: A Bronx Tale. Broadway: Act One (Tony Award), The Scottsboro Boys (Tony nomination), Thérèse Raquin (Tony nomination), Prince of Broadway, Sunday in the Park with George (2017), Come from Away, A Bronx Tale, Hand to God, On the Town, Sondheim on Sondheim, …Spelling Bee, Lovemusik, Rock of Ages, Chaplin, Bronx Bombers, Grace, The Two and Only. Off Broadway: 100 shows including The Last Five Years, The Toxic Avenger, and Miss Julie. Work ranges from NYC Ballet to the Ringling Bros. Circus and internationally in England, Russia, China, Australia, and Japan. He received the 2007 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Set Design.

Jess Goldstein (Costume Design) Selected credits include: On the Town, Jersey Boys, Disney’s Newsies, The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino (Tony nomination), Henry IV with Kevin Kline (Tony nomination), The Rivals (2005 Tony Award), The Apple Tree with Kristin Chenoweth, Orphans with Alec Baldwin, Buried Child, Proof, Take Me Out, Love! Valour! Compassion!, How I Learned to Drive, Dinner with Friends, The Mineola Twins (Lortel and Hewes Awards), Il Trittico for the Metropolitan Opera, and Tony Goldwyn’s film A Walk on the Moon. Paper Mill: Seven Brides…, Newsies, Ever After. Jess is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and has taught design there since 1990. 2015 recipient of the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award.

 Jason Lyons (Lighting Design). Broadway: Hand to God, On the Town, Bronx Bombers, Let It Be, Bring It On, Rock of Ages (and Vegas, Toronto, Australia, London, national tours), The Threepenny Opera, Barefoot in the Park, Good Vibrations. Recent Regional: 5th Ave: Romy and Michele…; Old Globe: Red Velvet, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Macbeth. The Public: Dry Powder, Barbecue, Venice. Second Stage: Smart People. MTC: Linda, Important Hats of the Twentieth Century, The Commons of Pensacola. Primary Stages: Lives of the Saints, Poor Behavior, All in the Timing. New World Stages: Heathers. Jason received the 2016 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design.

Kai Harada (Sound Design). Broadway: Amélie, Sunday in the Park with George, Allegiance, Gigi, Fun Home, On the Town, First Date, Follies (Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations), Million Dollar Quartet. Other: Poster Boy (Williamstown); Beaches (Drury Lane); Brooklynite (Vineyard); Little Dancer and First You Dream (Kennedy Center); Zorro(Moscow and Atlanta); Hinterm Horizont (Berlin); Sweeney Todd and Pirates of Penzance (Portland Opera); She Loves Me (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Audio consultant for the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Education: Yale University.

Leah J. Loukas (Hair, Wig & Makeup Design). Paper Mill Playhouse: The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, Oliver!, South Pacific, Grease, Elf, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Ever After, A Christmas Story, Million Dollar Quartet, Mary Poppins. Broadway: Marvin’s Room; Sweat; Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812; Oh, Hello; The Heidi Chronicles; On the Town; A Night with Janis Joplin; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; American Idiot; Irena’s Vow. Regional and Off Broadway theaters include the Muny, Dallas Theater Center, and La Jolla Playhouse. Public Theater (NYC): Julius Caesar, Sweat, Plenty, Barbecue, Fortress of Solitude, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Into the Woods.

Telsey + Company (Casting). Broadway/Tours: Anastasia; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Hello, Dolly!; War Paint; Present Laughter; Come from Away; Waitress; On Your Feet!; Hamilton; Kinky Boots; Wicked; Something Rotten!; The King and I; An American in Paris; The Sound of Music. Off Broadway: Sweeney Todd, Atlantic, Classic Stage, MCC, Second Stage, Signature. Regional: Berkshire Theatre Group, Center Theatre Group, 5th Avenue, Goodman, La Jolla, McCarter, New York Stage and Film, Williamstown. Film: Miss Sloane, Into the Woods, Margin Call, Rachel Getting Married, Across the Universe, Camp, Pieces of April. TV: Making History, Julie’s Greenroom, This Is Us, Conviction, One Day at a Time, Hairspray Live!, Masters of Sex, Smash, The Big C, commercials. www.telseyandco.com

Timothy R. Semon (Production Stage Manager). Broadway: Sunset Boulevard, Paramour, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, 9 to 5, Collected Stories, A Chorus Line, High Fidelity,Three Days of Rain, Wicked, Assassins. National Tours: Jersey Boys, 9 to 5, White Christmas, Wicked. Out of Town: Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical. Off Broadway and Regional: Yes. New York Philharmonic/television productions of Sweeney Todd, Company, and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert. BFA, UC-CCM.

 

 Free Audience Enrichment Activities for The Honeymooners

 Conversation Club: Join us Thursday evenings, September 28, October 5, 12 and 19, one hour before curtain for an informal, informative gathering. You’ll learn more about the performance you’re about to see.

The Director’s Viewpoint: One hour before curtain at 6:30pm on Wednesday, October 4, we host a pre-show discussion in the Renee Foosaner Art Gallery.

Q&A with the Cast: After the matinée on Saturday, October 28, stick around for a lively Q&A with cast members directly following the performance.

 

 

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