Ok twinks, cover your eyes, you won’t want to learn this disturbing news: YOU ARE GOING TO GET OLD! You will likely lose your hair, gain some weight around your flat stomach, experience aches and pains and walk into a room only to promptly forget why you came in there in the first place. Yes, Mid-Life is going to happen to us all, and it’s this subject that is explored in Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical playing until September 7th.
The show is best described as a musical sketch comedy along the lines of Saturday Night Live. The show stars J. Sean Elliot, Jill Harland, Bill Perry, Risa Waldman, Larry Mannell and gay icon Liz Gilroy – all of whom portray various characters in different scenes dealing with life from the age of 40 to 50. From being weekend warriors to dealing with adult children, to a hilarious look at trips to the doctor, the show has universal appeal regardless of your age.
The show was written by brothers Jim and Bob Walton - Bob came to Calgary from New York to direct the show.
“My brother and I had written a couple of other things that we were also in, and it became tiresome we were writing ourselves into corners. So we decided to do something we wouldn’t be in. We always liked the revue format but had never written one like this,” he told us, saying that the idea came from when he starred in the musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!
“When you are on stage and seeing people falling out of their chairs laughing, you ask ‘What is the universal appeal of this, and what is another situation that a lot of other people are going through.’ A lot of theatre ticket buyers are now on to mid-life. Even if kids come with their parents, or some older folks come who can say ’I remember when I was 50’, the situations are written to be funny and hold up whether you are in mid-life or not. Both of us write music and lyrics, separately and together, and we made a list of all the possible situations we might want to deal with for mid-life. We went off into our corners and wrote a handful of stuff each, and then came together.”
Directing work that he has written is not something new for Walton, although not a requirement for a company to stage the show.
“It is fun to continue the vision you had as a writer. It gives you a chance to fulfill that creative vision. But it has its downsides as it can be hard to get out of the writer-head and go, why didn’t I re-write that? I can’t now.”
For openly gay actor J. Sean Elliot, playing a series of heterosexual characters was not a challenge because as he approaches 40 himself, he is experiencing many of the things the male characters do in the show. Even for a gay audience he says much of the show will still ring true.
“I think it is genuinely a mirthful show and funny. The writers are Broadway folk and have close gay friends as we all do in theatre. What’s not to like about it for a gay person? There are things you can identify with like dealing with parents or forgetting what you came in a room for. Even if it isn’t them, someone would recognize it from what their sister or parents have gone through, and get it.”
One of the most challenging scenes is “The Long Goodbye” in which three people watch their parents with Alzheimer’s in a park, and share their experiences. It’s a sad but very real part of the show.
“That is an interesting moment in the show. What Bob and Jim did in writing that, they are walking this line and it is really tricky to play, especially if you have someone who is 80 in the front row. I think people understand that there are absurd things that happen with your parents, and that is the only way you can survive it is by seeing some of the funny things. We make it more bittersweet - we don’t want it to be depressing but it is something you have to deal with. I think they felt they couldn’t do this kind of show without mentioning that.”
Elliot’s has done a great deal of productions with Stage West, and the Toronto actor says he loves coming back.
“Stage West has made Calgary a second home for me. This is the 11th show that I have done. I have come to love Calgary and I have also met a lot of people in the theatre community here. Some of the staff have been here as long as I have been coming, and they have always treated me so well - it is a pleasure to come back. It is such a great getaway for me to be able to come out here and experience the mountains and it is just a win-win.”
Also win-win for the audience is this show. Whether you yourself are experiencing menopause or lamenting the loss of your hair, or have only experienced it through your parents, you will very much enjoy Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical.
Mid Life! The Crisis Musical
July 3rd - September 7th, 2008
Stage West Calgary