#Happy50ish | Playhouse @ Westport Plaza

I can’t imagine this kind of toilet humor would sit well with a well-seasoned St. Louis crowd.

The Playhouse at Westport Plaza showcases the male perspective of aging (somewhat) gracefully with Lynn Shores’ production of #Happy50ish. Shore worked with Mark Vogel and David Burnham to create the book, music, and lyrics. As a person who is approaching 50 with great velocity, I was intrigued to see how other men are dealing with the same roadblocks that I have started to face.  

The story is simplistic in nature: Mike (Richard Rose) has rented out the theatre and filled it with Bob’s (Lynn Shore) friends to celebrate his turning 50-ish. When Bob arrives to the surprise party,  he is a bit overwhelmed at having to celebrate another birthday. He is reluctant to admit his actual age and is not coping with growing older. The rest of the show is filled with anecdotes and musical numbers highlighting the struggles of growing older both mentally and physically.

While this show could be considered the male “answer” to Menopause The Musical, it fails to achieve the charm and wit of its female counterpart. While Shore’s enthusiasm and passion for this show is undeniable, the majority of jokes fall flat. Perhaps it’s how the songs are constructed—they are clever enough in their lyrics, but by the time the punchline is delivered, the audience could see it coming a mile away.

Another issue that was unavoidable was Bob’s overly sensitive reaction to references to his advancing age. Every time Mike attempted to bring up Bob’s age, Shore’s entire body cringed at the notion. While I know some people are sensitive to their age, I rarely see anyone react to the subject like Shore.

Both the jokes and the songs in the show were meant to highlight all the issues men in our age range are facing. Obligatory references to the AARP, the inability to urinate, and dealing with a mid-life crisis were all mentioned. But then the show takes a turn to low brow humor with songs about erectile dysfunction and—I kid you not—a colonoscopy. If the songs had been wickedly funny, all could be forgiven, but unfortunately the lyrics and the staging of the songs left me emotionally flaccid. Perhaps I have turned into a true theatre snob, but I can’t imagine this kind of toilet humor would sit well with a well-seasoned St. Louis crowd.

There were two songs that served as the highlight of the night. Both “Better With Age” and “Find the Laughter” served as a portal for Bob to reminisce about his life. It was during these moments when he truly connected with the audience. Unfortunately, two great songs out of a dozen do not save this show from its bumper sticker jokes and lack of wit.

I commend the Playhouse at Westport Plaza for bringing shows like #Happy50ish which may not otherwise get to grace the stage in St. Louis, but I have a request: Let us breathe. The velocity in which you stage your shows is mind-numbing. While you have had great success with Disenchanted and Pump Boys and Dinettes, we, as a theatre community, need a chance to take a rest. We appreciate quality over quantity. I know this is tough love, but I see the potential in your space, and I want you to be successful (and profitable) for many years to come. | Jim Ryan

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