Greetings readers, family and friends! Thank you for joining me this week to review “Juliet Is The Sun”. It first aired on October 29th, 1971. It is one of the “big headed Brady” episodes; a story where one of the kid’s ego inflates to irritating levels. This time around, it is Marcia who is too big for her britches. It is the least funny episode in a while. After being treated to the laughs of “My Sister, Benedict Arnold” and “The Personality Kid”, this episode is played mostly for drama with little comedy. Let us commence to reviewing “Juliet Is The Sun”.
The story opens with Peter and Jan parking their bicycles and rushing into the house with exciting news. In this opening, it was the first time I noticed the teeter-totter in the Brady backyard. As regular viewers know, it will factor heavily in a future episode. The exciting news Peter and Jan share is they have the roles of palace guards in their school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”. Carol is quite excited and compares their both acting to the Hollywood iconic family the Barrymores. It is a neat comparison as even after this episode aired, an actress from my own generation, Drew Barrymore, could be identified with the Barrymore lineage. As the family celebrates Peter and Jan’s bit part, even bigger news surrounding the play awaits. Carol gets a call from the play’s producer(?) Ms. Goodwin that shares the news that Marcia has landed a starring role! She had only auditioned for a small part, but the skill she demonstrated playing the nurse landed her the starring role. When Marcia learns of this, she is none too happy! She declares this news as awful and dashes off. So begins the drama that is “Juliet is the Sun”.
The next scene begins with Mike and Carol paying Marcia a visit. Marcia thinks it was good old political favoritism that saw her given the lead role. Carol is the chairman of the play committee. Marcia is assured that Ms. Goodwin would not miscast the lead role of the play to please Carol. Marcia goes on to say that she is not beautiful or noble enough to play a role as graceful as Juliet. Mike and Carol deem this nonsense. They tell her if she thinks she is beautiful and noble and projects that onstage, everybody else will feel the same way too. With that we get the first shot of Marcia staring in the mirror. As I mentioned in the review of “The Personality Kid”, somebody involved with this show’s production sure liked to have the characters look into mirrors and think or talk to themselves.
Downstairs, Greg and Alice discuss Alice’s own past acting experience. She recalls playing a lead role that critics found very interesting. She played the role of Julius Caesar in her all girls school’s production Julius Caesar. Could her school not find a more fitting play for an all female cast? Perhaps they were drawing from the days of yore when Shakespeare’s own plays were done by all males. The line reminded me of an episode of “The Simpsons” when Ned Flanders shares with Marge he played the role of Blanche Dubois in his all boys school’s production of “A Street Car Named Desire”. Alice shares with Greg how Marcia’s reluctance stems from a psychological mental block caused by a lack of confidence. Greg notes how that is some deep thoughts on Alice’s part, but then Alice shares it was not her own thinking, but Mike and Carol’s. This was a disappointing line as Alice certainly seems capable of realizing that herself. The other kids, sans Marcia, are in the next room working a jigsaw puzzle. They overhear Greg and Alice’s conversation and Alice’s suggestion that Greg give her a confidence boost. During this scene, I noticed how well Barry Williams and Ann B. Davis did acting in scenes together. There is something about their on screen chemistry that really made their scenes flow well. A fun spinoff might have seen Greg going to college and Alice showing up at the campus too, intent on getting her degree as well. When the dormitories are overbooked, Greg and Alice must rent rooms from a whacky sculptor/painter who has a large home right off campus. Such a show would only have a shelf life of a season or two, but it could have been fun.
The scenes that follow are of the other kids working to boost Marcia’s confidence so she will accept the role of Juliet. While slathered in face cream, Bobby and Cindy tell her she is pretty and groovy. Jan and Peter approach her for some acting advice. Jan has one line in the play and seeks Marcia’s advice on delivering it. The both ooh and ahh over Marcia’s help and Jan declares Marcia a terrific actress. Marcia can suspect her being cast as Juliet was the result of Carol being on the play committee, but cannot see through this shuck and jive? Greg finishes off the ego injections by sharing with Marcia his classmate finds her groovy and wants to meet her. Marcia is excited about a high school boy taking an interest. It would seem that after Warren Mullaney took an interest, some of the dazzle of a high school boy’s interest would be lost. Apparently not! Marcia then again returns to the mirror with her confidence now in place as the confidence building comments play again in her mind. A question for readers who were around in the late 60s and early 70s. Was “groovy” a commonly used adjective back then? They say it on The Brady Bunch quite often. If any kids had said it when I was growing up, it would have been jokingly as a throwback to the 1970s. Was it really used all that much?
The next morning, the sun has risen and so has Marcia’s confidence. She enters the kitchen beaming and practically walking on air as she now identifies with Juliet. In an overplayed scene, she flutters out of the kitchen. She seems borderline delirious! During this scene, Alice begins the Shakespeare quote, “A rose by any other name” and concludes it with “still costs ten bucks a dozen.” A quick Google search found that roses can still be purchased for this amount, but can run as much as $90 from a high end florist.
The next scene begins with Peter and Jan rehearsing their single line in the living room. They are the living embodiment of the saying, “There are no small parts, just small actors”. In the family room, Marcia is rehearsing with her co-star Harold Axlerod. Mike and Carol observe the practice and Mike notes that Romeo wears glasses. Harold gives Marcia one more confidence boost as he declares, “You really are Juliet”.
Harold’s compliment puts Marcia over the edge. She morphs into a full on diva and becomes increasingly possible to deal with. It starts with her “hogging” the bathroom and not allowing others to use it. She then lays claim to additional closet space in the one she shares with her sisters. She states that since all of the student body lays eyes on her daily, as she is Juliet, her dresses must look perfect. Jan is justifiably chapped at Marcia’s annexation and a verbal dispute erupts. Mike and Carol intervene, but give little support to the lowly peasant sisters. In a mildly funny line, Mike reminds Marcia she is not the first lady of the American theater. He then tells Jan and Cindy what a “strain” it is to be cast as the lead in a play and they should cooperate with Marcia’s diva ways. No instruction is given to share the closet space equally. Upon my third viewing of the scene for this review, I did notice a funny thing Jan does. As Mike and Carol conclude their chiding, Jan stands there with a pleasant smile. As the door closes, the scowl on her face quickly returns. Marcia sends Jan and Cindy to the family room to do their studying as she must study her own lines without distraction . On their way to the family room, Jan and Cindy stop by the boys’ room to warn them of Marcia’s increasingly prima donna ways. The kids now all lament encouraging her and boosting her confidence. Greg states they have created a small blond Frankenstein with their encouragement. The scene concludes with one of Bobby’s impersonations. At least they tried to insert some comedy in this episode.
The next scene starts with Carol on the phone selling ad space in the play’s program. It isn’t until after the ad is sold, the buyer is told that the play is “Romeo and Juliet”. This advertiser must have a lot of faith in the business the ad will generate and the play’s content not being objectionable to place an ad without even knowing what is being performed! Peter enters the kitchen complaining that Marcia is not helping him clean out the garage. Before going up to remind her, he does something that made absolutely no sense. He says “Hark! Who goes there” and then flails his leg and arms before walking off. Even Carol questions what he was doing after he is gone. Upstairs, Marcia is predictably opposed to helping Peter with such a menial task. It is not work fitting the star of the junior high school play or Juliet. Peter says Marcia’s head has gotten so big they would not both fit in the same garage.
Marcia’s increasingly diva ways are most evident during she and Harold’s next rehearsal. The other kids watch the stars practice their line. In the only laugh out loud moment (for me) during the episode, Harold delivers the line, “Shall I hear more or shall I speak at this?” Jan says, “It’s a wonder she lets him speak at all”. Marcia is quite annoyed at her siblings observing her rehearsal and banishes them all from the room. Her irritation doesn’t end with just her siblings. She is soon chastising Harold’s delivery of his lines. When he objects to her instruction, she declares him immature and refuses to rehearse with a child. In Marcia’s defense, Harold does kind of suck at delivering his lines. We now know why Marcia’s trying out for the nurse landed her the role of Juliet. If the other kids auditioning were of the acting caliber of Harold, whose talent warranted one of the title roles, the pickings for Ms. Goodwin must have been slim. Harold puts no feeling or passion into delivering his lines. Marcia’s brusque ways may be to blame for some of this, but he just seems to me to be a lousy actor, not an intimidated one.
Harold Axlerod was played by Randy Case. Per IMDB, this was his only acting gig on screen. While I had issues with his character being cast as Romeo, Randy Case did a great job playing Harold. A Google search yielded nothing about him. For now the reason for his brief foray into the acting arena will remain but a mystery.
That night, Marcia’s inflated ego has taken on yet another level. She is changing the lines of the play to suit her acting needs! She is even surprised she must deliver the lines word for word! Mike and Carol discourage her from improving upon the work of The Bard, but Marcia says an actress must do as she feels is right. With rehearsal complete and her disapproval of Harold voiced, she declares rehearsal complete. Carol states that if an actress can be judged based on her temperament, Marcia is ready for an Oscar! Check out that vase behind Marcia during this scene. It looks like one of those large bottles that go on a water cooler.
Marcia’s diva-like ways spill beyond the walls of the Brady house during the play’s dress rehearsal. Harold’s portrayal of Romeo here again calls to question the quality of the other actors who auditioned for the part. The boy just has no motivation. Again, maybe we can suspect that Marcia robbed him of some of that, but even early on he seemed to lack that gusto an actor should bring to a role. During the dress rehearsal, it is found that Harold’s glasses do not work well with the mask that is part of his costume. As he bows to Juliet he loses both the specs and his cap. As the boy struggles to even see his glasses laying on the floor, Ms. Goodwin suggests he do the entire scene without them! This lady is committed to junior high theater! She would rather the boy wander aimlessly onstage so he can wear a costume mask instead of a minor wardrobe alteration that would see the mask not be worn.
As the rehearsal of the recommences, Marcia has relocated herself to the balcony. She feels the scene would be better if she stands there. She tells Ms. Goodwin she is only trying to improve the play. Upon resuming, Marcia forgets a line. She blames Harold’s bumbling ways for her lack of concentration. Ms. Goodwin says for her not to blame others for her own mistakes. One final shot at some comedic input for this episode is attempted in this scene. Without glasses, Harold can’t seem to find his co-star and twice delivers his lines to empty space. By the time we make it to this scene, any comedic pacing has long been discarded for this episode, so these scenes lacked the humor that might have been enjoyed in another Brady episode.
Unbeknownst to Marcia, Carol is offstage watching the rehearsal. At this point, Carol’s presence likely would not have altered Marcia’s behavior anyway. With the cast dismissed, Carol and Ms. Goodwin discuss Marcia’s impossible ways. Carol compares her to Sarah Bernhardt. A quick scan of Bernhardt’s Wikipedia article didn’t mention her being impossible, just a fantastic actress.
Ms. Goodwin was played by Lois Newman. Her IMDB page lists only one other acting credit. It was a feature film titled “Game Show Models”. A Google search produced no additional information about her. Lois Newman died in 1987.
During the dress rehearsal, we see Peter and Jan onstage playing the role of palace guards. Check out Jan’s hair. It was a nice look for her.
Back at the Brady house, the hammer comes down on Marcia. Carol visits her in the girls’ bedroom. She starts the conversation sharing she just sent the program to the printers. Marcia replies that she wishes Harold’s name wasn’t in it. Carol shares that Marcia’s name has been removed. Marcia has been replaced and her understudy will be playing the role of Juliet. If Marcia had not replied with the comment about Harold, I pondered what Carol was going to share next. “I sent the final program to the printers this afternoon. There is going to be a change you won’t approve of.” or “I think you will enjoy reading it while sitting in the audience. You were fired today.”
The rest of the conversation is an exercise in duplicity. Carol admits the family encouraged Marcia to take the role and be confident and her impossible personality is not entirely her fault. Then she concludes the conversation saying Marcia brought her firing on herself. It was like she was saying, “It’s not your fault Marcia, but it is.” Marcia is reduced to angst filled tears and yells “Mom!” Maureen McCormick was a stunningly beautiful young lady, but when she turned on the waterworks, it was almost like Jekyll and Hyde when it came to her looks.
Unlike “Romeo and Juliet”, this episode has a happy ending. At the last minute, the actress playing Lady Capulet has the mumps and the entire play is now in jeopardy. Marcia asks if she may take the role and assures Carol she will not be the diva she was before. Carol welcomes her back to the play with a hug and a smile. On IMDB, somebody questioned, as I myself did initially, why the understudy for Lady Capulet’s role was not given the part. The explanation I came up with was that since it is a smaller role (but by no means a bit part), no understudy was cast. We must remember this was a junior high production with an acting pool that saw Harold Axlerod cast as Romeo, so on stage players must have been in short supply.
The epilogue has the family coming home from the play. Peter is very well dressed to have been a part of the production. Did he wear those nice clothes to the school, only to have to change out of them to play the guard and then put them back on? Maybe like high school football players of the day, actors went to the event well dressed and left the same way. One last attempt at comedy is shared as Alice reflects on the Shakespearean tragedy she just watched. She says the saddest part was when Peter and Jan flubbed their lines with “Who goes there” followed by “Hark!” With that, this episode comes to a conclusion.
Well friends, as I stated in the opening, this episode was heavy on dramatics and not much fun. It ranks among my least favorite of the series. Marcia’s impossible ways had the potential for comedy throughout the episode, but were played for drama instead. I did notice the episode’s writer’s, Brad Radnitz writing resume included many more non-comedic scripts than comedic ones. Next week, we return to all kinds of crazy with “And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor”. I know this episode tends to fall among the least favorite lists of some fans. I myself haven’t seen it in ages, so it should be fun to revisit it. Until next time, parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say have a good week, till the next time you visit this site and a new review seek.”