New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

The Honeymooners

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/25/2017

The Honeymooners

Chances are if you’re from the tri-state area you’ve grown up with The Honeymooners on television.  You may have watched the show during its original run or as sketches on The Jackie Gleason Show or Cavalcade of Stars where it began; or you could be one of the millions to grow up with the show as a staple on late night television reruns.  Whatever the case, the Kramdens and the Nortons are likely to be etched in your memory, but the two couples are about to come alive like never before.

Paper Mill Playhouse is set to present the World Premiere of The Honeymooners from September 28 through October 29.  Based on the legendary sitcom, the play involves the working class duo of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton once again shooting for the moon and hoping to strike it rich.  They shock their wives (Alice and Trixie) by winning a high profile jingle contest and find themselves out of Brooklyn and into the world of Madison Avenue advertising.  Unfortunately, their quest for the American Dream just might cost them their friendship.

If you’re not familiar with the television show, Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) is an overweight bus driver.  His best friend Ed Norton (Art Carney) works in the sewer.  Their wives Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows) and Trixie Norton (Joyce Randolph) are best friends as well.  They all live in the same apartment building, although the Kramden’s apartment is about as modest as can be.  Ralph is always falling into get rich schemes, and he usually drags Norton into trouble as well.  They are the ultimate working class stiffs; yet, even without much money, they both have great marriages. Even though Ralph and Alice fight, they always make up.

The Honeymooners has been a highly anticipated show for years. In 2013, the show was originally scheduled to make its debut at The Old Globe in San Diego.  Two years later, it was scheduled to launch at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut.  Both times the play was pulled - not because of lack of interest, but because interest was so high and the show was deemed ready for Broadway.  While no announcement has been officially made as of yet, the odds are good that The Honeymooners may be the next play to jump from Paper Mill to The Great White Way.

The principal cast for the Paper Mill production 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, with Lewis Cleale as Bryce Bennett, Lewis J. Stadlen as Old Man Faciamatta, and David Wohl as Allen Upshaw.



The article continues after this ad

 


The production features a book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, music by Stephen Weiner, and lyrics by Peter Mills. This world-premiere musical is directed by Tony Award-winner John Rando with choreography by Emmy Award-winner Joshua Bergasse with musical direction and vocal arrangements by Remy Kurs. 

Michael Mastro, who bears quite a natural resemblance to Art Carney, is coming off a two year stint as Resident Artistic Director at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.  The actor says the cast is being careful about trying to emulate the television show characters too closely.

“We’re honoring them, but we’re not mimicking them,” explained Mastro.  “None of us are mimics, nor do we want to be exactly mimicking them.  We’re sort of bringing elements of those actors to our performances, but we’re also bringing ourselves. You don’t want to be external about the work.  I have a lot of facial similarities to Art Carney already, so I don’t want to do overkill.  I loved his work and I am honoring him, and I’m trying to find that delicate balance.”

The Honeymooners

Mastro says the show includes some of the iconic elements of the hit sitcom, but also works in intriguing twists such as basing Trixie’s character on her being an ex showgirl - something that he hints figures into the overall plot.

Much of the success of the show, and one reason it has lived on for six decades after its initial 39 episode run, is due to the chemistry between the two couples.  According to Mastro, that chemistry will be seen on stage as well.

“It’s a little like a love fest,” admits Mastro.  “Not only between the four of us, but the musical as written has such a beautiful, lovely heart to it.  I feel like we’re all responding to that all of the time - both with the scenes and the songs.  The writers have been very careful to honor the original show, while still bringing something fresh to it. It’s very funny with a lot of heart. We’re having a ball in rehearsals.  It wasn’t hard to create chemistry.  I’m having a blast and that’s usually a good sign for a show.  We’re having such a good time and we’re hoping the audience will as well.”

In recent years, Paper Mill Playhouse has seen several musicals including Newsies, Bandstand, and A Bronx Tale move on to Broadway - a major factor in helping Paper Mill win the Regional Theater Tony Award in 2016.  Even though hopes are high for The Honeymooners, it’s been far more difficult for television shows to succeed on Broadway than with feature films.  It might be because of the difficulty in staging a play that doesn’t seem like just another television episode of the show or that people are too familiar to the television actors portraying the characters.

“There is a theory that somehow not only movies but movie actors tend to sell tickets in the theatre better than tv actors because the public is so used to being able to see the show,” suggested Mastro.  “But now television has moved away from the four channels we grew up with into the hundred zillion channels we have now.  There is so much product being made and because so much of it isn’t on the three networks, the rules controlling them are looser.”

Mastro’s point was backed up by the 2017 Emmy Awards in which only one scripted prime time network show won an Emmy.  Meanwhile shows like The Handmaid’s Tale (on Hulu), Veep (HBO), Master of None (Netflix), and Atlanta (FX) were awarded.  One thing those shows have in common is that people had to pay to see them, just like with movies.

“So maybe now that people are paying for all of the entertainment they’re getting in their home, the idea of paying to see these people or the shows on stage may not be so foreign to them,” added Mastro.

Three things work in The Honeymooners’ favor: the fact that the original show only ran for 39 episodes (not counting the lost episodes or sketches); the show’s incredible popularity after six decades; and turning it into a musical comedy.  The idea of the show moving on after its run in Millburn may be in the back of everyone’s minds, but they’re focused on Paper Mill run now.

For Mastro, this year represents a return to focusing on his own acting career.  The Albany, New York native has been in his share of shows on Broadway (Love! Valour! Compassion!, Barrymore, Side Man, Mama Mia! and West Side Story to name a few). Just before rehearsals began for The Honeymooners, Mastro had a role in the upcoming Barry Levinson film (still untitled at press time) at HBO about the Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State.  Mastro had the opportunity to work alongside Al Pacino for five weeks on the project.

For the last two years, Mastro immersed himself into the world of regional theatre while working at George Street Playhouse.  Mastro says he has returned to acting refreshed and with new perspectives.  He wants to continue acting, directing, even venture into writing in the future.  But there’s one thing he doesn’t want to do - run a theatre.

“I treasure that time at George Street,” said Mastro.  “I learned so much about running a theatre and have such respect for the people who do it.  I think one of the things I learned is that I don’t want to run a theatre!  I was very grateful when, at the moment I was having that epiphany, David Saint was able to be there all of the time.  It all dovetailed with the wonderful news of the brand new performing arts center.  So, to be part of helping to find that temporary space at Rutgers’ Cook Campus and for me to have the realization it was time to go just as David was realizing he wants to be back there to oversee the expansion into the new building - all of that was so exciting and I’m so blessed to be part of that George Street family.”  

The Honeymooners





For more by this author, click here






The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  


It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.






Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.