Mid-Life, The Crisis Musical
Book, Music and Lyrics by Bob Walton and Jim Walton
Directed by Shawn Kettering
Produced by Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Columbia
Reviewed by Ted Ying
You’ve heard the one about a person who spends the day trying to do some chores but, getting distracted at each step of the way, ends the day with nothing done. Absent-mindedness is just one of the many humorous aspects of approaching mid-life along with medical problems, embarrassing exams, landmark birthdays and more. With such a cornucopia of material to draw from, Mid-Life, The Crisis Musical should be a side-splitting success.
Unfortunately, the musical is so poorly written that the handful of really funny concepts and punch lines are as overused as excuses for not exercising more.
The show itself is a musical revue built on a series of short vignettes, each highlighting some aspect of mid-life aging such as ticking biological clocks, weekend warrior athletics, 40th and 50th birthdays and cosmetic surgery. Each starts out with a fairly humorous concept or one-liner, and includes a song. However, often the build-up to the punch line is so drawn out that the audience knows what’s coming well before the text gets halfway there. Other ideas, introduced quickly, get a wonderful reaction from the audience, but then are repeated multiple times within the scene until the concept no longer seems funny.
And then there are moments when the show takes a very offensive turn. One outstanding example: during the scene about two men at the proctologist’s office, the dialogue and song are laden with offensive 1950’s style homophobic material.
The score is weak with very little notable music. The lyrics suffer from many of the same issues as the script and the music is often difficult to listen to, with uninspiring melodies and unusual chord or progression choices. Although there were several moderately good songs towards the end of act II including a wonderful song about aging parents called “The Long Goodbye”, it was a case of too little, too late.
The show is an ensemble show with each of six actors (David Bosley-Reynolds, Debra Buonaccorsi, Michael Carruthers, Maribeth Vogel Eckenrode, Darren McDonnell and Kim Reiter) trying valiantly to surpass the level of the material.While most turned in sound performances, Michael Carruthers and Kim Reiter had pitch problems, poor enunciation such that we missed many lyrics, and problems staying in character.
The technical aspects of the show were also mixed. The production made excellent use of the projection screens in each corner of the theater to display transitions. Each screen started out looking like an eye chart exam and the letters would rearrange to make titles for each scene.
However, Jimmy Engelkemier’s lighting design relied a lot on solitary spotlights, frequently leaving performers in shadow or moving through shadow during key scenes, distracting the audience. An unfortunate side effect of the design in theater-in-the-round was that several lights, pointed across the stage area, shone directly into the audience’s faces.
Sound designer Drew Dedrick’s design was functional and simple. The band is composed of one keyboard and percussion creating a nice simple, intimate mix of piano and voice. Unfortunately, the sound was not balanced well. The music ended up sounding a little hollow and one was left wishing for a fuller combo to match the voices.
There are many good one-liners embedded within Mid-life, The Crisis Musical that might have been worthwhile for an evening of laughs. But it left me wishing I had forgotten where I put my ticket to the show.
Running Time 2:05 including one intermission
When: Through March 8, Tue-Sat evenings doors open 6:00 PM, curtain 8:15 PM, Sun evenings all times one hour earlier, Wed & Sun matinees doors open 10:30 AM, curtain 12:30 PM, buffet served 15 minutes after doors open.
Where: Toby’s Dinner Theater, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD
Tickets: $46.00 – $51.00, children $32.50 – $51.00
Info: Call 1-866-99TOBYS or 301-596-6161 or visit the website.