Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical sings and dances while delivering many laughs
Noble Fool Theatrical???s Chicago premier of Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical is a fast-paced song and dance revue that brings mid-life to life with all of its inherent aches and pains. There???s no cure for the condition, but the premise of this show is that it???s easily managed with a healthy dose of therapeutic laughter. Director Michael Weber has pulled together a veteran professional cast for this production and together they keep the audience laughing non-stop from beginning to end.
There is nothing unexpected in this lively spoof ??? medical humor, family crises, memory lapses, and plastic surgery abound ??? but as predictable as the content is, each witty number delights. Lyrics and timing are what keep this show moving. Rather than wallowing in mid-life stereotypes, the musical pirouettes, glides and slashes its way through them. The show is perfectly cast. Michael Accardo, Jane Brewer, Anne Gunn, Mary K. Nigohosian, Tom Shea, and John Vessels are all professional actors who not only never miss a beat, but can also sing and dance. Mid-life: The Crisis Musical is heads above most Vegas revues and well worth the trip out to St. Charles.
There are some tender moments in between the laughs, as well. Take for instance the second act???s ???The Long Goodbye??? dealing with caring for aging parents. We see a group of mid-lifers gathered as on a playground while they watch their parents, not their children, romping about. ???I never thought I???d be making play dates for my dad.??? And there???s the sympathetic guy crooning about his lost love: his hair, of course. Not really lost, as it turns out, merely misplaced. As I said, it???s predictable, but I dare you not to laugh.
In addition to the wonderful cast, the production support of Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical is even and well done. The set is functional and beautiful; costumes are creative and plentiful, and each musical number is introduced with projections on flanking screens that provide eye-chart jumbles of letters dissolving into titles that amuse. Little touches add so much to this production. Entrances and exits are lightning quick ??? ???where did she come from???? ??? and pianist Ken Jones consistently provides just the right note.
If you are looking for high-brow sophistication, Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical is not the show for you, but if you are looking for an evening of light entertainment that will amuse virtually everyone, load up the family and head to Pheasant Run. The theatre there is beautiful and there are several choices for dining including specially priced dinner and show packages that include a meal at the highly rated Harvest Restaurant in the resort.
Noble Fool’s “Mid-Life” hits right notes
By Barbara Vitello, 9/18/07
One thing about Noble Fool’s “Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical,” it’s inclusive.
Where baby boomer-centered revues like “Menopause the Musical” and “Hats!” focus on women coping with middle age, “Mid-Life!” includes men in the mix with very entertaining results.
A mostly light-hearted look at issues affecting middle-agers — Botox and ticking biological clocks; mammograms and prostate exams; adult children and aging parents — the pleasantly predictable sendup delivers exactly what you’d expect. And exactly what the audience wants, judging by the enthusiastic response from the demographically appropriate crowd at Saturday’s opening.
The score by Bob and Jim Walton (who also wrote the book and lyrics) isn’t particularly distinctive, consisting mostly of upbeat, mid-tempo tunes. But the cheeky, pun-filled lyrics are amusing. And the show, which unfolds on set designer Kevin Depinet’s bright, well-manicured suburban paradise, benefits from Michael Weber’s breezy direction and a cast with solid comedic chops.
Thomas Shea stands out, setting the bar early on with a tour-de-force performance of “Turning Forty,” about a man realizing he’s become his father. He and Michael Accardo team up for a funny swivel chair pas de deux (choreographed by Rachel Rockwell) that occurs while the men await prostrate exams. John Vessels joins them for a gleefully over-the-top “Weekend Warriors,” spoofing aging amateur athletes looking to recapture their grade school glory.
Weber and his cast play the comedy broadly in a show whose highlights include a deliciously madcap “singing mammogram” which gets the Busby Berkeley treatment; a salute to AARP featuring Accardo and Jane Brewer (in a brassy, spirited turn) performing a soft shoe number with medical canes, and the nimbly staged “Classical Menopause,” a polyphonic ditty about a couple dealing with “the change” and one of the show’s highlights.
Unfortunately, the show, which suffers from tacked-on platitudes and an abrupt ending, stumbles late in the second act with the inclusion of “The Long Goodbye.” While touching, the ruefully comic song about middle-aged children watching their parents succumb to Alzheimer’s feels out of place amid the levity.
Middle-Age in the Key of “C” – “Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical” Reviewed
The idea of going through a mid-life ???crisis??? is something that most people do not want to acknowledge will happen to them. But, as we all know, almost everyone experiences this to some degree, whether they???ll admit to it or not. It???s a natural part of aging; reminiscing about days past, wondering what could have been, and trying to recapture one???s youth. These are the things that mark the process of aging, and gave the writers of ???Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical??? fodder for a hilarious play.
Focusing on the years between one???s fortieth and sixtieth birthdays, ???Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical??? looks at not only the afore mentioned mid-life ???crisis,??? but also pokes fun at many of the other staples of middle age. With a superb cast of 6 actors and actresses, ???Mid-Life??? parodies the situations and neuroses that both sexes encounter when approaching the autumn years of life.
Utilizing a single set stage consisting of six doors (three on either side of the stage) narrowing back to a cut out of a house with a hedge (which hid a piano) and a backdrop showing a stereotypical shot of the suburbs complete with pink flamingos, the play opens with the requisite announcements about audio and video recording, cell phones, and the intermission. But instead of the usual, pre-recorded affair, each announcement was made with a few added interjections, including the request to adjust hearing aids; informing the audience about the availability of Geritol in the bar; and assuring all in attendance that there would be many, many intermissions. After the half-serious opening announcements, the pianist walked onto the stage, idly trimming the hedge as he made his way to the piano. As the pianist began to play the opening chords of the play???s theme, ???Welcome To Mid-Life,??? the entire cast burst through each of the six doors, belting the tune with a boisterous confidence that set the mood for most of the play.
As the play progressed, the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy each of the exaggerated situations the cast found themselves in. Each song, tackling subjects such as going to the doctor (including both the male and female experiences); a woman???s biological clock; lying to spare another???s feelings; and weekend warriors all received hearty amounts of laughter from the audience. One song, ???My Lost Love,??? especially seemed to be the audience favorite as it was not a ballad about a previous girlfriend (as the song???s intro made it seem), but rather a hilarious look at a man who lost his hair.
To balance out the numerous laughs, the play did include a small number of ???serious??? songs that really made the viewer consider their loved ones and their own lives.
In the first act, the song ???When He Laughs??? is a ballad that focuses on a wife and her reasons for continuing to love her husband after many years of marriage. In the second act, the cast looks at mortality in a decidedly unfunny way. The song ???The Long Goodbye,??? which has three of the cast members singing about their aging parents, brought the play back to reality and made everyone ponder their own lives as a consequence. The song really seemed to hit close to home for some of the audience members as sniffling could be heard all around the seating area.
In the end, ???Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical??? is an excellent musical that celebrates aging as much, if not more, than it laments it. Because even though it hilariously parodies many of the situations we all are going through, have gone through, or most likely will go through during middle-age, it reminds us that it is all a natural part of aging, and with the right outlook, it???ll be all right.
???Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical??? is playing now through November 3, 2007 at the Pheasant Run Resort located at 4052 E. Main St. in St. Charles, Illinois. For tickets, please call the theater box office at (630) 584-6342, or visit www.noblefool.org.
??Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical?? at Noble Fool Theatricals
By Dan Zeff
ST. CHARLES?? “Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical” opened in Minneapolis in January 2006 and within a year the show had spread across the country, from?? Ontario to Texas and Vermont to California. Clearly creators Bob and Jim Walton had hit upon a sure-fire audience connect for a revue–the slings and arrows of reaching middle age.
“Mid-Life” thus follows in the theatrical footsteps of musical revues like “Menopause, The Musical” and “Hats” in catering to the tastes and concerns of customers on the north side of 40, a dominant slice of the theatergoing public. It’s no accident that Florida, with its vast pool of senior citizens, has three separate productions of the show running.
Noble Fool Theatricals captured the Chicago area rights to “Mid-Life” and word of mouth should lure a sizable audience to the Pheasant Run Resort. The material is clever and accessible and the six-member ensemble is ingratiating and talented. What??s not to like?
“Mid-Life” consists of about two dozen songs and sketches.
There is no narrative theme and no real book. The show is a flow of material tied together by its humorous and occasionally poignant consideration of what we face when we reach middle age.
The show takes us to those intimidating and often humiliating visits to the doctor (a mammogram for the ladies, a proctology exam for the men). Three men try to convince themselves they still possess their old physical vigor by playing basketball in a local gym weekly. We suddenly need reading glasses and we inexplicably can’t remember where we put something or why we even entered this room. Three divorced women take gleeful pleasure in how their ex husbands turned out badly.
Most of the bits are played for light, if often rueful, laughs.
There are a couple of touching numbers, like the woman who still finds plenty to love in her husband of many years. Three women gather in a park to watch over aging parents who are losing it, bringing home the melancholy fact that at some time in life many of us endure the role reversals of being the parents to our failing mothers and fathers.
Unlike “Menopause, The Musical” and “Hats,” “Mid-Life” is an equal opportunity show. The two earlier shows both were limited to women.
“Mid-Life” probes its subject with three women and three men in various combinations, from solo to ensemble. The production values are basic, the musical accompaniment coming from a piano player on stage, and the set made up of a row of doors at the rear of the stage to facilitate rapid entrances and exits.
The Noble Fool theater has a proscenium stage, but the show could work as easily in an in-the-round venue, which makes “Mid-Life” an ideal candidate for dinner theaters and intimate regional theaters. The show would be a perfect tenant for the cabaret theater at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, the home of a similar vehicle called “I Love You, You??re Perfect, Now Change.”
The Noble Fool production has assembled a first-rate cast of performers who neatly capture the spirit as well as the substance of the material. The female half consists of Jane Brewer, Mary Nigohosian, and Anne Gunn. The males are Michael Accardo, John Vessels, and Thomas Shea (who looks a little young for the premise but exhibits so much exuberance and all-round talent that the deficit of a few gray hairs scarcely matters).
They all work together well and have enough stage presence to carry solo numbers.
Michael Weber directs with a savvy eye to the breezy quality of the material, never allowing it to descend into silliness or corniness or cheap pathos. The excellent piano accompaniment is provided by Ken Jones, who occasionally joins in with the performers. Rachel Rockwell is responsible for the minimal but effective choreography. Kevin Depinet designed the functional all purpose set, Jesse Klug the lighting, Jeff Hendry the costumes, Joseph Fosco the sound, and Mike Tutaj the projections.
We’ll never see “Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical” on Broadway. This is strictly a show for the hinterlands, where people of a certain age will enjoy seeing themselves in the mirror held up by the performers. It’s an easy to take show without being frivolous and it should be huge success art the Noble Fool.
“Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical” runs through November 3 at the Noble Fool theater at the Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 East Main Street.
Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5 and 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $27 and $38 with dinner packages available (the Harvest is my restaurant of choice at Pheasant Run).
The show gets a rating of 3 1??/2 stars.
Congratulations, Kathryn of Bartlett!
Winner of The Daily Herald???s ???Midlife Moment??? Pheasant Run Getaway Essay Contest
“Inherit the dog”
When I think of the office supplies that remind me of death (which isn???t often), sticky notes never top the list. Scissors make the cut (literally). Scientific calculators still tweak my heart rate. And for some reason (like watching too many slasher flicks) the whizzing and crunching of electric pencil sharpeners is downright terrifying. Sticky notes, though, have always been sunny, helpful, and largely devoid of dark emotional baggage. They lost that innocence after a recent trip to my parents??? house.
Answering the door, Dad warned me that Mom was experiencing ???the change??? in full force that day and mentioned the house was in slight disarray. Per my calculation, Mom had been experiencing some manifestation of ???the change??? for the last twenty-five years, so I was prepared. Not so. Their cozy den looked like a room repossessed. My mother sat amidst a field of fluttering yellow squares, fingers inked with marker stains zealously scribbling and tacking notes to everything in sight. ???What are you doing???? ???Deciding who gets what.??? ???When???? ???When I die, duh,??? replied my utterly healthy, totally with it, designer clogs matching designer purse-toting mother and reached for a coaster set. The sticky note pattern repeated itself throughout the house. In the kitchen a bottle of balsamic vinegar was labeled with my name like food in a dorm room fridge. ???What about Rusty???? I hollered. Rusty, in true puppy fashion, bounded into the room and she tenderly plopped a note with my brother???s name on his back.