Beverly Hillbillies make stage musical comeback

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Beverly Hillbillies make stage musical comeback

By Ray Hanania

Cropped screenshot of Max Baer Jr., Nancy Kulp... Anyone of baby boomer age knows the musical theme for the 1960s television favorite, The Beverly Hillbillies.

The TV sitcom ran from 1962 until 1971 and lampooned the Hillbillie lifestyle through an imaginary family, the Clampetts, who struck oil while hunting for possum out in the mountains.

They put Granny on top of a pile of log cabin belongings in a rickety old truck, and drove to Beverly Hills, where they settled into a mansion as new millionaires setting the neighborhood on fire and the local bank agog over the investment profits.

Back in the 1960s, you could make fun of cultural stereotypes without worrying about protests. It all led to a kind of openness that forced people to look at race, culture, class and gender discrimination, while laughing each week.

The series starred Buddy Ebsen as the widower Jed Clampett, Max Baer, Jr., as Jethro, Donna Douglas as the curvaceous Elly May Clampett, and Irene Ryan as the ornery grandmaDaisy May “Granny” Moses. The show was hilarious and also featured Raymond Bailey as the greedy banker Milburn Drysdale, Harriet E. MacGibbon as his wife, Margaret, and Nancy Kulp as his bank assistant Jane Hathaway.

I bet you can stop seniors on the street, today, and ask them if they could sing the lyrics to the show’s theme song: “Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed, a poor mountainer, barely kept his family fed.  And then one day He was shootin’ at some food, And up through the ground came a-bubblin’ crude. … Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.” You know you’re humming the tune while reading those lyrics.

Cover of "The Beverly Hillbillies"

Cover of The Beverly Hillbillies, Movie remake

Well, they’ve made a musical about it, and it will be making its boot-stompin’ world debut July 10 in Munster, Indiana in a stage play written by Tony-nominated writer David Rogers and Amanda Rogers with music by award-winning composer Gregg Opelka. Here’s the release folks.

After 200 episodes and nine seasons as America’s beloved 1960s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies is making strides on stage as a musical for the first time ever. Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana, presents the World Premiere of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE MUSICAL, running from July 10 through August 10 with a press opening on Sunday, July 13. Directed by Jeff Award nominee David Perkovich with a musical score by award-winning Chicago composer Gregg Opelka, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE MUSICAL follows the nouveau-riche Clampett family as they move to the privileged society of Beverly Hills after discovering an oil reserve on their land. From Jed Clampett to Granny, Elly May and Jethro all the favorites from the ‘60s TV comedy are back and shaking things up as they adjust to their new, fast-paced life while maintaining their hayseed ways.

The Clampett’s trials and tribulations start to unravel when two crafty con artists cook up a scheme to fool overnight millionaire Jed Clampett (Jeff Award-Winner James Harms) out of his not-so-hard-earned millions. The chaos continues as nephew Jethro faces relationship problems, daughter Elly May (Jeff Award-Winner Summer Smart) has growing-up pains, and Granny (Kelly Anne Clark) just wants to go back to the simple, butter-churnin’ life she knows and loves. Despite watching his “black gold” turn into blackmail, Jed remains calm because, in the end, he knows that a country boy is always quicker than a city slicker. The Clampetts stay true to their roots as they face out-of-place encounters and hilarious antics, showcasing their genuine charm.

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE MUSICAL delivers an unforgettable twist on the 1960s TV classic and features the classic theme song “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” written by producer and songwriter Paul Henning. Bluegrass artists Flatt and Scruggs originally performed the musical score and cut their own version for Columbia Records, which reached #44 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop music chart and #1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart.  

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES cast includes Jeff Award-winner James Harms as “Jed,” Jeff Award-winner Summer Smart as “Elly May,” John Stemberg as “Jethro,” Norm Boucher as “Mr. Drysdale”, Holly Stauder as “Mrs. Drysdale,” Kelly Anne Clark as “Granny”, Tina Gluschenko as “Jane Hathaway”, Bernie Yvon as “Col Foxhall”, Rebecca Bradford as “Ashley”, Mary Nigohosian as “Mrs. Pennyweather”, Jake Mahler as “Brewster”, Patrick Tierney as “Percy”, David Sajewich as “Lt. Richards” and Colette Todd as “Rita”.  The ensemble includes Missy Aguilar, Victoria Blade, Julie Baird, Jill Sesso and Patrick Martin.

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES production team, led by Director David Perkovich, includes Musical Director Bill Underwood, Choreographer Nicole Miller, Stage Manager Matt McMullen, Production Manager Ann Davis, Lighting Designer Denise Karczewski, Costume Designer Brenda Winstead, Sound Designer Barry G. Funderburg, and Props Designer Jessie Howe.

Founded in 1991, Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional theater at its home, The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana.  Theatre at the Center is Located off I-80/94, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago, and has free parking.

Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.; and select Thursday evening and Saturday matinees.  Individual ticket prices range from $40 - $44.  To purchase individual tickets call the Box Office at 219.836.3255 or Tickets.com at 800.511.1552.  Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more and gift certificates are also available. Special Subscription Series Events include: the Wine & Theatre Series, the Dinner Theatre Series and the Opening Night Series.  For more information on Theatre at the Center, visit TheatreAtTheCenter.com. 

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Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley).

In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. He hosted a live weekend Radio Show on WLS AM radio from 1980 through 1991, and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM and shows on WSBC AM in Chicago and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate and his column is feature every Sunday in the Saudi Gazette in Saudi Arabia. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His Chicagoland political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News on several Chicagoland blogs including the OrlandParker.com and SuburbanChicagoland.com.

Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]