Hardcore fans of the Jackie Gleason’s 1955-56 classic TV show The Honeymooners — count me among them — will get pleasant flashbacks from John Rando’s wacky musical of the same name at the Paper Mill Playhouse through October 29.
There are plenty of references to classic lines from the show, the dialogue is breezy and the cast does a fine job of recreating the chemistry that made us love Ralph, Alice, Ed and Trixie. The musical numbers are fun, especially the dancing bus drivers and the Faciamatta Cheese commercial featuring the Nativity.
The plot could have come from the original series, Ralph and Ed win a jingle writing contest. Although the subplot centering on Trixie’s past as a burlesque dancer never would have made it past the censors. Winning the contest earns Ralph and Ed a gig at an Madison Avenue ad agency where they write jingles and music for a Bryce Bennett (Lewis Cleale) a duplicitous creative director. Lewis J. Stadlen does a nice job playing the crazy client, cheese mogul and over-the-top Italian Old Man Faciamatta.
Folks familiar with the show will appreciate all the references incorporated into the musical (Ed’s “Swannee River” piano warmup, Ralph’s golf getup) as well as Alice’s (Leslie Kritzer) snappy barbs at Ralph. Kritzer steals the show in the second act with a fabulous solo. For Michael McGrath, channeling Ralph Kramden’s frail blowhard personality and mannerisms is a mere bag of shells. Michael Mastro aces playing Ed Norton. Laura Bell Bundy is a likable and sultry Trixie.
All told, for hardcore and casual fans of the TV show, the Honeymooners musical is a whimsical tribute to Gleason’s genius.
The Honeymooners, Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive. Millburn. Tickets: $39-$137; at www.papermill.org. Through October 29.