Broadway Features and Reviews
Reviving Broadway Royalty: The Royal Family
By Caitlin Maggs, Broadway Magazine
You thought your neighbours were bad? Imagine living next to a whole family of fanatical performers in 1927, clearly extracted from somewhere along the 'Von Trapp' family tree, singing, dancing, acting at all hours. Held fragilely together only by a common theatrical thread; drama and fireworks are inevitable consequences once this 'Royal' family unites.
Loosely based on a real theatrical royal family themselves, the infamous Barrymores, Kaufman and Ferber's classic comedy, 'The Royal Family,' witnesses the star-struck play writers' fascination for that same American stage family conveyed into their fictional, dramatised alternative of the Cavendish's. Very much alive some sixty years later, this eccentric family is still floundering back into the spotlight with a sparkling new cast for its second Broadway revival this October. The only question left is; why exactly were the original multi-talented, attention-seeking family so reluctant to play themselves for the original stage production?
Even the most persuasive flattering from the 'Show Boat' creator herself couldn't tempt the Barrymores into action in 1927. Viewed as a 'deliberate insult', Ethel Barrymore even threatened to sue Kaufman and Ferber following the offer made to play Julie Cavendish. Recovery was clearly a difficult procedure for Kaufman and Ferber, who had envisaged the Barrymore family learning their own comical scripts from day one. But needless to say, the show was in safe hands. Opening on December 28, 1927 and the comedy ran for 345 performances in its first Broadway production.
Balancing the glamour of stardom with the dreariness of domestic life, even after several cocktails later,' The Royal Family' seems reluctant to fade behind the red curtain. Commended as being "a classic comedy of theatrical manners" this old-style reality TV show is sure to captivate with its intense dialogue-filled scenes and riveting acting mastered by some of the theatre's best, including Rosemary Harris and John Glover. Not to mention the poignant portrayal of one of the most common, yet under-stated dilemmas of the time; the ageless conflict between privacy and publicity.
Dusting down the chandeliers, this pleasingly old-fashioned comedy certainly puts the truth back into the faithful line 'the show must go on.' Going on to prove that a bit of dedication can go a long way, 'The Royal Family' which dazzled, angered and added more than a dash of excitement to the 20's, can be assured once it slips back into its rightful position in Broadway, that it's 'reign' on stage, this time around, will be a lengthy one.