The Beverly Hillbillies The Musical

Book by David Rogers & Amanda Rogerstheatre at the center

Music and Lyrics by Gregg Opelka

Based on the TV series by Paul Henning

Clever, fun ode to the Clampetts sings nicely with smart tunes by Gregg Opelka

That hit TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies, 1962-71 produced over 270 episodes and frequently was in the Top Ten rated TV shows. We love those Ozark hillbillies, the Clampett clan. I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoyed their funny misadventures that included, once they moved to Beverly Hills from their new oil wealth, their continued wonderment that whenever they heard bell chimes, someone was at their front door. And why is there no fish in the ‘ce-ment pound’ in their backyard? This world premiere musical featuring the Clampetts is true to both the long running comic stage play and Paul Henning’s TV show.

When playwright David Rogers got permission to use any of the hundreds of TV show episodes from Paul Henning, a stage comedy emerged and when Rogers (with help from his daughter upon his death) decided to create a musical version of The Beverly Hillbillies, they turned to an expert musical composer, Chicagoan Gregg Opelka who has penned many smart, tuneful musicals including Soup Du Jour and The Singing Cowboy.

hillbillies clampetts

This collaboration resulted in a slick, fun, and, of course, tuneful Broadway musical. This is not a country or bluegrass musical but rather a character driven musical that does feature country-ish tunes depiciting the Ozark hillbillies – the Clampets but it also contains songs about the Beverly Hills characters.  The banker, his wife, the secretary and the folks who run the private school  as well as the grifters who try to extort money from the Clampett’s all get their songs.

Beverly Hillbillies cast

But, as expected, the Clampetts sure get their say. From Elly May (Summer Naomi Smart) asking “What About Me?” to the clan moving west in “We’re Movin’ West” to Granny (the terrific Kelly Anne Clark) missing her old residence in “My Little Ozark Home” – the Clampett’s become our friends. We learn about how smart Jethro (John Stemberg) thinks he is (not) but how the girls adore him. Rogers’ book captures the essence, style and quirks that made these hick’s so lovable. It is there absolute tolerance for people and their complete lack of judgment of people that makes them ‘noble’ despite their ignorance of contemporary  society, especially the rich Beverly Hills crowd.

The musical’s plot is typical of the TV show. Here Elly May, ever the tomboy, finds it hard to keep a boyfriend and Jethro promises marriage to 3 or 4 girls. Granny can’t get adjusted to her modern home.  Emaline Fetty (Colette Todd) and Colonel Gaylord Foxhall (Bernie Yvon) attempt to extort money from Jed Clampett (James Harmes). Act one ends in a country-showdown showstopper “Stamp it like a Clampett” – a real toe-tapping fun tune.

Beverly Hillbillies- Bernie Yvon and Kelly Anne Clark

Act Two demonstrates composer Gregg Opelka’s talent as he creates a nice variety of styles such as a ballad “Girl Friday” from Miss Hathaway (Tina Gluschenko), the Banker’s secretary. Jed gets a sweet love song to his daughter “When I’m Lookin’ At You.” There is a catchy tune about Percy Pennyweather (Patrick Tierney) being a “Mama’s Boy.” Colonel Foxhall seduces Granny in a cute love songs “Just a Couple of Kids in Love” sung nicely by Bernie Yvon and Kelly Anne Clark. Elly May and Lt. Richards (David Sajewich) sing and dance marvelously in “Sleuthin’. “

What makes The Beverly Hillbillies The Musical so engaging comes from the piece being true to the characters from the beloved TV show -Granny, Jed, Elly May, Jethro and their banker handlers are all present as the mayhem ensues. Next, Gregg Opelka has penned a terrific score with smart lyrics that captures each character and each storyline most tunefully and effectively. And, director David Perkovich as cast a talented group of “A” list Equity players to create empathic characters with comic aplomb. James Harms, Kelly Anne Clark with John Stemberg and Summer Smart anchor the show.

As a world premiere on a modest budget The Beverly Hillbillies The Musical is audience ready- it’ll make you laugh as it delivers a sophisticated Broadway musical in the Golden Age style: it plays like a 40’s – 50’s style musical -and – that’s a good place to be. Gregg Opelka has lifted The Beverly Hillbillies The Musical into a slick, tuneful, and heartfelt musical. The opening night audience in Munster loved this sweet show. The folks at Broadway In Chicago and the Goodman Theatre need to see this show so they can consider moving it to downtown Chicago. With all the hype around the mega-musicals we keep seeing, it is refreshing to see a heartwarming, fun, simple yet slick Broadway musical that audiences will enjoy with cute songs and toe-tapping numbers. Gregg Opelka is a major talent whose work deserves an audience.

Get to Munster to see a fine new musical, it’ll make you smile and bring back to life those hicks we a;lways love.

Highly Recommend

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: July 13, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout The Beverly Hillbillies The Musical page at theatreinchicago.com

At The Theatre at the Center,  1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, call at 219-836-3255, www.theatreatthecenter.com, tickets $40 0 $44,  Wednesday & Thursdays at 2 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, select Thursday evenings and Saturday matinees, running time is 2 hours,25 minutes with intermission, through August 10, 2014