The Honeymooners hit The Villages Tuesday like aging, bewildered spring breakers caught in a time warp journey from 1956. And, as Ralph Kramden would say, “it was a regular riot.”
Ralph, Norton, Alice and Trixie survived the snowbird culture shock of leaving their frigid Bensonhurst tenement for a cramped, sweaty villa in Fenney.
“The Honeymooners: From New York to The Villages,” is an original play written by Villagers Tina Shapiro and Carol Ozzarone-Onuschak. It runs through Thursday in Savannah Center.
Instead of New York streets with coldwater flats, overflowing sewers and crowded buses, these Honeymooners put up with wayward golf carts, jammed round-a-bouts, bustling town squares and plugged-up toilets.
Such is life in The Villages, at least in this farcical tribute to the classic television show.
The sparse plot basically deals with the main characters taking a trip to The Villages for the National Racoons Convention.
No actors could match the comic genius of Jackie Gleason (Ralph) and Art Carney (Ed Norton), not to mention the spunky wit of Audrey Meadows (Alice). Joyce Randolph played Trixie on the old TV show.
But The Villages’ Honeymooners captured the spirit of the original cast and the comic ethos of the show, which ran for one full season in 1956.
Nearly 70 years later, the comic routines and human frailties of the Honeymooners are as relevant as ever.
Director Barry Corlew was able to create the essence of the old show, and get the cast to bring themselves into the parts, not just third-rate imitations of the main characters.
We start with Gary Chubeck as Ralph Kramden. He wore a puffy fat suit; moppy wig, bus driver uniform, and Davey Crockett-style Racoon-skin cap.
Forget the costumes, it was Chubeck’s gracefully awkward body movements, booming voice and rubbery facial expressions that enabled him to morph into Ralph.
Chubeck was up to the challenge of every scene and dominated the stage. He displayed bloated rage while battling with his mother-in-law – played by a grouchy Billie Thatcher. He seemed ready to explode while enduring a golf lesson from Norton. Big Ralph was light on his feet trying to figure out line dancing in The Villages. And he seemed perplexed trying to follow golf cart routes or finding seats at the town squares.
Chubeck’s delightful performance was nearly matched by Bill Krone as Ed Norton. Gleason was the star of “The Honeymooners” but it was the Art Carney character who made the show click.
Krone sort of underplayed Norton, but he was spot on in the familiar bits that made “The Honeymooners” so funny.
Like teaching golf to Ralph and showing him how to, “address the ball.”
“Hello ball,” Norton says. And when he leaves Ralph’s apartment, he adds “good-bye ball.”
As any “Honeymooners” junkie knows, Norton suffers from nightly bouts of sleep-walking. Krone moved just right, hands stretched out in front of his shoulders, as he sleepwalked around Ralph’s tiny villa.
Norton’s ragged, turned up porkpie hat, his baggy nightgowns and goofy expressions were sights to behold, thanks to Krone. He also possessed Norton’s constant nervous tick hand movements that drove Ralph crazy.
One unintentional hilarious moment came when Krone came into a scene wearing shorts instead of the pants that went with his Racoon Club outfit.
Krone did a nifty U-turn, and quickly returned to the scene with the right pants.
Janet Maloney as Alice fought off Ralph’s bluster with wisecracks, fat jokes and a determination to stand up to her man. Tina Shapiro as Trixie, managed to cope with Norton’s epic idiosyncrasies.
Bonnie Williams as Ralph’s neighbor, Mrs. Manicotti, was bubbling with energy throughout. She also chipped in a couple of lively songs, “Volare” and “Fly Me to The Moon.” Billie Thatcher and Barbara Byers joined her on the musical stage.
Bob Petrucelli was ready to party wearing a couple of bull horns on his head as the Racoons’ Grand Exalted Ruler.
The play was produced by Susan Feinberg for Smash Productions.
“The show was originally scheduled for last year – then came the pandemic,” Feinberg stated in notes on the play. “We preserved and are ecstatic to finally be here.”
She added that a portion of the proceeds would be donated to Your Humane Society SPCA, and The Villages Shrine Club.