Friday, January 27, 2017

Eve Plumb "South Pacific" in Summer Stock 1991

(Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images, Monday June 10, 1991 in New Hope, Pennsylvania )
Jan Brady' Turns To Musicals With Role In `South Pacific'

June 20, 1991|The Morning Call

 I'd say people remember Jan best as the feisty Brady," Eve Plumb said over the telephone from the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, where she is playing Nellie Forbush in the American classic "South Pacific" through June 30 (and at Pocono Playhouse July 3-21).

Plumb played Jan Brady for the five years of "The Brady Bunch's" original network run (1969-74). Then came everlasting syndication, an animated spinoff, two Brady reunions, a short-lived second series last season and the kind of national cult status that rendered the series' silly theme -- "Here's the story" (beat beat) "of a lovely lady ... " right up there with the "Gilligan's Island" song in people's favorite word-recall Olympics.

Just as Jerry Mathers is resigned to a lifetime as "The Beaver," Plumb knows she is fated to live on in people's minds as Jan Brady, regardless of how else she makes her show business mark. "It (that identification) will be with me the rest of my life. I made peace with that a long time ago, so hopefully, I know I have to maintain a good attitude about it. "It's a wonderful way to get work and make a good living, the kind of living a single woman these days might be hard-pressed to find. And I've gotten on-the-job training all my life."

In truth, there was nothing very remarkable about the Bradys, as Florence Henderson and Robert Reed played a widow and widower with yours and mine children who ran television's first extended family. But the fact that "The Brady Bunch" has impressed each generation that followed says something about the identification children feel with the non-traditional family in an age of widespread divorce. As sitcom fare, the fact that its scripts were wholly trivial didn't seem to matter.

Plumb says that the basically decent behavior of the six Brady children was mirrored among the young actors who took their roles. A Burbank, Calif., native who started in commercials at 6 and was Jan Brady by 10, Plumb agrees with Mathers that staying whole and healthy though a child actor had largely to do with having the right kind of parents.

"Definitely. I think that's why none of the Bradys held up any liquor stores. We all had good parents and we were all expected to be professional. We were given good background, good training that sticks with you. But certainly there were kids in my neighborhood who were doing drugs and shoplifting who had nothing at all to do with television except to watch it."
When Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham of "Happy Days") backed out of the Nellie Forbush role at Bucks for personal reasons, Plumb, who says she can sing but doesn't consider herself a singer, fell into her first musical comedy role. "It was a complete surprise to me. They asked if I could sing. I said yes. I think a risk was taken on both ends. I very rapidly went to a good friend, a voice teacher and songwriter, for help."
"This is a part of the reason I'm doing this, it's such a challenge. I was scared. I'm getting more confident now and giving up that fear," she said, heading into the mid-stretch of a very brief rehearsal period. "You have to find a way not to be afraid or your throat tightens up, you start shaking and you can't do a thing. So I rely on what one of my improv comedy teachers calls finding the `Whee' factor, meaning there has to be some sense of fun in what you do, however daunting."

She has worked on her voice for years, though. On the phone, it registers deeper than one might expect. "I remember reading in Lauren Bacall's book that when she started work in `To Have and Have Not' the director had her drive along Mulholland Drive and read aloud in a deep-pitched voice. I've always tried to pitch my voice. I'm small (5 feet 4, 100 pounds) and since most people know me mostly as a blonde, they tend to think of you as being flighty. So I purposely pitch myself lower."

Her theater experience up to now has placed her in stand-up and improvisational comedy. Most of her training occurred at the Groundling Theatre in Los Angeles. "It's mostly for improv and sketch-type comedy. A lot of good people have come out of there: Julia Sweeney, Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz of `Saturday Night Live,' Pee Wee Herman ... I studied there a couple of years doing sketch comedy. I had done some stage at college at Cal State-Northridge, but not a lot of heavy stage training. My main work is in television, fortunately."

There have been at least six  of the week for her, among them the most remarked upon "Dawn: Portrait of a Teen-age Runaway," and guest roles on series including "Murder, She Wrote." Mostly though, there has been "The Bradys," "The Brady Brides," "`A Very Brady Christmas" and "The Brady Girls Get Married."'
Asked what the Brady years were like for her, she is quick to answer: "A lot of fun because there were all the other kids. There was also a wonderful teacher/welfare worker/wrangler who not only taught us for three hours a day but kept us busy during the summer months putting on arts shows and things. I just got a birthday card from her," said Plumb, who recently turned 33.

Plumb was chosen as Jan Brady, so the story goes, because she had blond hair and looked like Florence Henderson. These days, she's neither. Her hair registers a vivid auburn. "I changed my hair color around the fall of last year, finally giving into the impulse to be a redhead I've had the last few years.
As to why the original series became such a part of pop culture, she said, "I don't know. Mainly that it's never been off the air. Every generation has grown up with it somewhere." And for herself, seeing the girl she was at 10 through 15: "It's strange. It's like having your home movies flashed on a screen all the time."
Last season's abortive series, "The Bradys," lasted only six episodes. "Nobody saw it except for the reviewers who ripped it to shreds as though we'd been killing small puppies on film. God forbid we got older and grew up."

She has absolutely no regrets, she says. As for yet another Brady reunion? "I never say never," she said. "Work is work, darlin'."


1 comment:

  1. I didn't see "City Of Angels" come up when I searched it on your blog.

    The year after Plumb's summer stock, Barry Williams starred in a touring production of the musical comedy/detective drama, which was co-written by MASH's Larry Gelbart. Here is a review of the stop in DC, which I saw: