Many productions of WaistWatchers the Musical! have been staged since 2007. Advertisements compare the plot to Menopause the Musical, since both comedies have found success due to song parodies, off-color humor and empathetic female characters.
Although not every theatregoer will relate to scenes dealing with Botox or online dating, the jokes from writer Alan Jacobson and John Anderson’s, production manager of the San Diego Repertory Theatre, caffeinated direction, should appeal to both men and women.
Taking place in Miss Cook’s Women’s Gym, a fitness instructor, Carla (Yvonne), trains three clients who want to lose weight and get more into shape. Carla is very close to the gym members and the four of them share anecdotes about their personal lives.
Connie (Danielle Levin), Cheryl (Kathy Sanders) and Cindy (Brandi Lacy) struggle through problems involving sex, family and body image. Their time together becomes like mini therapy sessions.
These ensemble members starred in a recent run at Phoenix’s Herberger Theater Center and they seem to be having the time of their lives. Levin, Lacy, Sanders and Yvonne do not turn the friends into stereotypes. They want to grow as people, which give certain sequences a touching quality.
Even Carla has issues involving dating and a temptation for sweets. In a nightmare, she envisions snacks singing to her to the music of “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” from Gypsy. This gives Anastasia Pautova a chance to be creative with her costumes, as Connie, Cindy and Cheryl get to dress up as different kinds of dessert.
Miss Cook’s gym members have a difficult task of singing Jacobson’s lyrics where they consistently have to harmonize well without sacrificing the laughs. Each performer knows how to find that balance.
Anderson keeps events moving with only moments of downtime. His interpretation is brisk, yet there is enough depth to not come across as glib.
Jacobson’s words pay homage to Broadway showtunes and radio friendly hits. Everything from Oliver! to the Village People is referenced during the 90-minute one act.
There is actually compassion during the numerous numbers for the chums. They sing about their past and their aspirations for the future.
Though many of the melodies score a bullseye, a few initially start as one-joke musical numbers. Examples include “Botox Queen,” a takeoff of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “I Went to the Buffet Line,” a sendup of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” However, the songs do become funnier because of small, yet effective, lyrical changes.
Instead of a live band, musical director Vic Glazer’s pre-recorded music arrangements have a crisp sound thanks to audio engineer, Alex Heath. The instrumentals contribute to jokey tone using earnest songs such as “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from Man of La Mancha and Willie Nelson’s ballad, “Crazy” but arranged in a way that is hard to take seriously.
Blending in well with the music is Anthony Jannuzzi’s lighting. His stage effects can be amusingly dramatic, especially during the opening number, “I Hope I Lose It” and “Viagra.”
Be open to some audience participation during the evening. Certain viewers might be asked to dance, be used in a gag or even eat free candy. There is nothing embarrassing about the way the fourth wall in broken. These scenes are all in good fun.
As mentioned before, not every visitor of Miss Cook’s Women’s Gym will identify with the issues brought up in WaistWatchers the Musical! Still, there are lines of dialogue regarding self-esteem and confidence that should strike a chord with many.
One of the best messages is that just because people should try to make healthy choices, does not mean they should be ashamed of their bodies. This might not be necessarily a profound theme, but the moral is timely and important.
Tuneful and often funny, Anderson’s staging at the Lyceum Theatre should continue to appeal to plenty of adults. The cast and crew want to create a good time at Horton Plaza and they succeed.