The Kids Left, The Dog Died, Now What?
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
September 26, 2007
The Kids Left, The Dog Died, Now What?, Carole Lonner's new musical revue about baby boomers facing a host of midlife crises, is good fluffy fun. This humorous look at the day-to-day concerns of the over-50 crowd tackles everything from AARP-dating to plastic surgery. The situations aren't mined for depth, only for sheer entertainment value. But they cut to the heart of some universal truths deeply enough to make one nod in empathetic recognition. Lonner, handling both the book and songwriting duties, displays a solid sense of both craft and humor, and director Hilary Adams mounts a nicely polished production that delivers many crowd-pleasing moments. Based on the audience reaction at the performance I attended, I'd wager that the creators could have an I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change-type hit on their hands.
Lonner's book bursts at the seams with as many scenarios as she can cram into the show's 90-minute running time. A longtime married couple considers some action on the side; a single matron is encouraged to try JDate; a new widow is confronted by her husband's much younger mistress at his funeral. It's all here. The advantages that the characters in The Kids Left have over their youthful counterparts in other such shows, however, are more life experience and a keener sense of the human comedy. When a cyber-lothario asks one of the women if she owns a vibrator during a chat room interaction, she tells him that he has to buy his own. Another woman, wondering if she married the right man or not, admits the reasons she wed so young: "Roger was cute, and I wanted to buy dishes." And when one of the men catalogues his team of doctors (for his knee, his back, his colon) while putting on support braces, he's sharp to catch (and laugh at) his own joke.
The songs are similarly funny, as in "Casserole" where two women compete for a newly-single neighbor with dueling casseroles. In "Wake Up Jack," a mother tries to make her grown-up layabout son realize what a catch he is (even though he still lives at home and is a slob). But there are some sweet, touching moments as well, like "How Do I Let You Go?" in which a twentysomething ponders her widowed father's return to the dating pool. Best of all is "I'm on My Way," in which a retired businessman excitedly moves back to the city of his youth, New York.
Ron Bagden, Tiana Checcia, Mary Jo McConnell, Marsha Mercant, and Michael Shelle are the cast members, and they're all splendid. Musical director Rick Hip-Flores accompanies them nicely at the piano, and keeps the songs sprightly. This is an all-around well done production that really should have a life beyond its debut here at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.