This review of “Happy 50ish" at The Beckett Theatre was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Starring Lynn Shore & Mark Vogel
Book, Music & Lyrics by Lynn Shore, Mark Vogel & David Burnham
Direction & Choreography by Paul Stancato
Scenic & Lighting Design by Christopher Ash
Sound Design by David Crawford
The Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 7/26/15 at 6:00 p.m.
I saw the opening night performance of Happy 50ish with book, music, and lyrics by Lynn Shore, Mark Vogel, and David Burnham. The scenic and lighting design by Christopher Ash created a visual delight for the eyes while sound design by David Crawford enabled us to hear every word. The Beckett Theatre is an off-Broadway theatre where any seat is a good seat. I was in a corner-back seat and still could see and hear everything.
Mike, enthusiastically played by Mark Vogel, is hosting a surprise 50th Birthday Party for Bob, his best friend, and everyone in the audience is a guest at that party. Bob, realistically portrayed by Lynn Shore, is celebrating, moaning, groaning, and lamenting his fiftieth birthday. His wife, whom we never meet, is delayed because the bakery misspelled Bob's name as "Boob" on the cake so Mike gets the party rolling. Mike and Bob trade one-liners, jokes, songs, memories, trivia, dreams lost and found, defeats and victories, failures and triumphs. Bob has three generations and five decades of memories of happy and sad events. His happiest memory is that his father found time to play baseball with him; he also found time to do so with his own son; and, in time, looks forward to playing baseball with his new grandson, although he dreads the day when he will be called "grandpa."
Throughout this musical, I laughed and cried at the same time. Mike is indispensable as the raconteur, the master of ceremonies, and as a friend who has stood by Bob through the ups and downs of their lives. The music and songs relate to the experiences of our two main characters. They range from funny to sad and add to the ambiance of the occasion. The audience is treated as dear friends and encouraged to sing-along and enjoy the party while we await the arrival of his birthday cake. Toward the end of this 90-minute play that ran without intermission, Bob receives a call from his wife informing him he has become a grandfather for the first time and he looks forward to this new turn in his life despite his earlier reservations - and who better to share this new journey with than his best friend Mike.
Happy 50ish is a musical joyride full of the cavalcade of life's mostly good fortunes as long as you ignore going bald, suffering from erectile dysfunction, preparing for the indignity of having multiple colonoscopies, and losing your eyesight and hearing. It was a privilege to catch this well-acted, two-man play, which I believe has the potential to become a big hit that will run for years! For more information, visit www.Happy50ishMusical.com