Sitcom Ageless On Chi Stage

“The Brady Bunch,” a staple in syndicated tv, is enjoying success here in another type of rerun – live theatrical performance.

“The Real Live Brady Bunch” has been doing turnaway business at the 110-seat Annoyance Theater (130 with standing room) since June 19. Every Tuesday night, the Metraform Theater Co. reenacts an episode of “The Brady Bunch.” A new episode is staged every two weeks.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show go on sale at 5:30, and people typically begin lining up outside the theater at 4, says co-producer and director Jill Soloway. There is a similar wait for the 9 p.m. show.

Why? For one thing, the show is something of a bargain. A $7 ticket to the non-Equity theater’s “Real Live TV Night” includes admission to “The Real Live Game Show,” at which audience members compete in improvisational theater games for prizes donated by neighboring stores.

But, primarily, “The Real Live Brady Bunch” offers its twentysomething audience a chance to celebrate a show that apparently had more influence on impressionable minds than anyone realized. The 18- to 28-year-old crowds are so familiar with “Brady Bunch” scripts that they often recite key lines with the actors.

“‘The Brady Bunch’ is special,” Soloway explained. “It’s not just your average sitcom. It had a huge effect on an entire generation.”

Soloway, 25, said she and her sister, Faith, 26, conceived the idea of performing “Brady Bunch” scripts after a friend entertained them with a “dead-on perfect imitation” of Marcia (Maureen McCormick), the oldest Brady sister.

The sisters talked the Metraform company into performing the “Brady Bunch” scripts, producing and directing the reenactments themselves. The shows were sellouts from the first, even without advertising or publicity of any kind.

In fact, the Soloways tried to keep the shows quiet, fearing action by lawyers for Paramount TV, which owns the show.

But after show creator Sher-wood Schwartz attended one of the performances in November, at the invitation of the Soloways, he saw the show was more of a tribute than a put-down, and he passed his approval on to Paramount TV.

When Schwartz was introduced to the audience, the crowd cheered, stomped, screamed and chanted. “It was incredible,” Schwartz remembered. “I felt like an aged rock star. They were yelling Sher-wood, Sher-wood. They wouldn’t stop.”

Paramount permitted the Soloways to perform “The Brady Bunch” at the Annoyance for a token fee, stipulating that the show could not be moved to a larger, more commercial venue.

Jill Soloway said she and her sister have received offers to set up “The Real Live Brady Bunch” in New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, but they have nixed them all.

The only offer that really has tempted them, she said, has been the chance for Metraform to tour college campuses with the show – a proposal that would have to be approved by Paramount.

But the troupe intends to perform “The Brady Bunch” at the Annoyance “as long as it’s fun,” Jill Soloway said.

“The Brady Bunch” is only one of the shows that helps pay the rent at the Annoyance. “Coed Prison Sluts” has been running for a year and a half. “Viva Las Elvis, Elvis, Elvis” is performed on Wednesdays, improvised one-acts appear on Thursdays and “Manson: The Musical” is shown at midnight on weekends.

The company opened a musical called “Your Butt” Jan. 4.

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