My sleeping Johnson needs to wake
I need a charmer for my snake
This little pill had better take
Hope it doesn’t flop, It’s 50 bucks a pop
In addition to this ditty about Viagra, there are equally peppy songs about colonoscopies, AARP, urinary incontinence, and the trauma of becoming a grandfather in Happy 50ish!
It’s a light and pleasant two-character original musical about a surprise party for jovial Bob’s 50th birthday. His amiable best friend Mike presides over this event and the audience is involved from their seats as guests. This is because Bob’s wife Pam is running late due to an error at the bakery involving his cake. Bob sifts through a huge pile of birthday cards and some of them inspire songs.
The upbeat book is a collection of wry jokes and observations about male mid-life crisis and aging that is often quite funny yet thoughtful. The show’s creator Lynn Shore, along with Mark Vogel and David Burnham, wrote it. They also collaborated on the show’s tuneful, clever, and very enjoyable score. It’s a well-crafted variety of songs that are in an appealing pop style of the likes of The Four Seasons, Doo-wop, and soft rock. Though a number of the topics musicalized are risqué, the songs are all good-natured and never really that coarse.
The shaven-headed Mr. Shore also plays Bob. His performance is a wonderful and personable everyman personification of the long married suburban American male. Vocally skilled and with charming ease he offers a tremendously engaging characterization.
With the precise comic timing of a television talk show host’s sidekick, the long blond-haired Mr. Vogel winningly plays Mike who assists for this event. He is also the musical director and is at the keyboard displaying very accomplished musical skills in addition to his appealing performance. He and Mr. Shore have great chemistry together and the warmth between the two men adds the dimension that they really are best friends. Their presence enchants and holds one’s attention during the show’s 90 minutes.
“They Text They Type They Talk They Twitter” is a terrific Dr. Seuss style number lamenting younger generation’s reliance on contemporary technology and this causing social distance, versus the nostalgic simplicity of the past. Performed by Mr. Shore in a The Cat in a Hat type hat, with witty lyrics, and wonderfully staged, it’s one of the show’s high points.
Director and choreographer Paul Stancato (with additional staging by Mr. Burnham) has done a superb job of creating a lively and visually interesting miniature spectacle out of two middle-aged men on a suburban back yard patio. There are numerous splendid dance numbers for the duo that suit the material, lots of inventive stage business and sight gags, several involving a cooler.
Scenic designer Christopher Ash’s set is a bountifully detailed recreation of the rear area typical American house. Sliding doors, grass, wood railings and a deck floor are all on display with an assortment of festive balloons. Mr. Ash also designed the proficient lighting that markedly enhances the events.
Sound designer David Crawford artfully gives the show a musical edge that doesn’t overwhelm that material with volume and that gives scope to the small-scale proceedings.
Happy 50ish! succeeds at treating some serious subjects with very entertaining and slightly edged merriment that much of its audience can relate to.
Happy 50ish, it’s time to celebrate life,
Don’t know what all lies ahead, but for
Right now everything’s fine.
Happy 50ish! (through August 30, 2015)
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212- 239-6200 or visit http://www.happy50ishmusical.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission