Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables concocted a zesty, observant summertime hit with its 2008 production of Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical.
This summer, Actors’ and artistic director David Arisco have returned to the well for a sequel, Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues).
The Baby Boomer-centric, world premiere show has the same creators, brothers Jim and Bob Walton. It has the same director, Arisco, and the same music director, David Nagy. And it features the same six actors who sparkled in the first Midlife! musical, powerhouse talents Allan Baker, Maribeth Graham, Margot Moreland, Lourelene Snedeker, Wayne Steadman and Barry J. Tarallo.
But (you saw that “but” coming, right?) Mid-Life 2! doesn’t come close to being the gem that the original was.
Mostly, it’s the fault of the new material. The Walton brothers write music that can be tuneful, funny or sweet, but there’s only so much hilarity to be wrung from lyrics about erectile dysfunction, the horrific side effects of various medications and the tricky terrain of senior discounts.
As with Mid-Life!, the sequel mixes songs and sketches, pairing the men and women in different combinations, offering solos and duets and group numbers. The cast’s acting ability and vocal prowess go a long way toward selling even the weaker material, but there’s only so much a musical theater talent can do.
Set designer Gene Seyffer, costume designer Ellis Tillman, lighting designer Luke Klingberg and sound designer Mitch Furman have given the show the quick-change style it needs, creating an expressive little world for each segment. One funny touch: The title of each number is blurrily projected above center stage, then gets pulled into sharp focus once an oversized “magnifying glass” is lowered. That item from a “midlife” person’s toolkit is something my hubby always has handy.
Thanks to the multiple characters they play, the actors shine and suffer in equal measure.
Moreland has a funny second-act bit about a woman in heavy disguise buying condoms, but not for her own use; earlier, she plays a patient understandably creeped out by having skin tags and age spots removed. On the number Where’d I Put My Glasses?, Steadman is a guy desperately seeking his specs (they’re perched atop his head), Graham conducts a frantic search for her phone (she’s talking on it), and Baker is a guy who gets distracted every five seconds. Been there!
Snedeker gets the show’s most moving song, Nana, about a woman’s love for the baby girl who made her a grandmother. The guys do a new riff on the Weekend Warriors bit from the first show, this time playing men testing their “athletic” prowess on various Wii games. Poor Tarallo and Baker take Yet Another Trip to the Doctor, this time to deal with the enduring effects of a little blue pill that worked way too well.
Mid-Life 2! is intermittently amusing, but the laughs it gets tend to be chuckles, not guffaws. Because of the talent involved, it’s better than half-baked, and Arisco and company are continuing to work on the piece throughout the run. That’s good. At this point, the show isn’t fully cooked.