By Charles Jarrett
A Funny Musical Comedy For the Senior Citizen Crowd
"Assisted Living: The Musical," a very funny musical comedy, has just opened in the Imperial Palace in San Francisco to "test the West" in a national tour orchestrated by its authors, Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett, and national production and musical director, Skip Brevis, a New-York-based musical director, composer and arranger.
The show is outrageously funny. I laughed, I cried, I almost died.
In an interview this past week, Compton and Bennett let me in on some of the hilarious insights that unfolded as they began collaboration on this new musical. They have written and created a dozen musicals together over the past 15 years that they have lived and worked in Naples, Florida. Compton has been a musical director and pianist in orchestras for years and Bennett has performed as an actress and singer with both of them performing their shows as a team before they began to cast aspirations towards a national musical comedy tour.
Compton and Bennett's musical comedy opened in Naples to immediate kudos in June 2009. Within days, it was sold out for weeks in advance and had attracted the attention of the Associated Press, the BBC and numerous regional publications. Through March of this year, the show has played to thousands at country clubs throughout the southwest Florida, winning standing ovations at each performance.
After playing to packed houses "to the limits of the fire code" according to Bennett, the show came to the attention of New York producers and has been in development for a national tour for more than a year.
This delightfully funny show pokes fun at ourselves and the senior situations that seem to constantly bombard us. I cannot tell you how many times a day that I am certain that I have done something or put something away in a certain place, only to find I haven't. What is even worse is walking from one part of my house to another, with some objective in mind, only to find myself standing in front of a cupboard asking myself, what did I come here to do, what am I looking for, why am I here?
Frustration seems to be our constant companion as we get older, and even though it is not that attractive a companion, it seems to accompany us everyplace, a blind date with a real memory problem.
We have to laugh at ourselves about the frailties of growing older, or we may become angry people. "Assisted Living: The Musical" celebrates in a humorous way the many little anomalies of joining the "senior set." This wonderful little comedy pokes fun at growing older gracefully (and perhaps even a little disgracefully), shedding light and laughter on senior romance, Internet dating, memory glitches and the pain and joy and unique aspects of moving to senior communities.
What good opportunities and advantages does living in a senior community or assisted living facility provide? One of the characters in the fictional retirement community in which this comedy takes place describes her new life as "sort of like a journey on a cruise ship; except the final destination is not Catalina!"
When you infuse clever humor with outstanding talented actors, you come up with a show that garners a lot of attention quickly and that is exactly what this musical has. This show is bound to draw audiences from every nook and cranny, all around the Bay Area, entertaining a broad spectrum of audiences.
The selection of lead actors is paramount to a successful run. Bob Greene (Actors' Equity member) and Zoe Conner are in the lead roles, accompanied by the young and talented Robbie Cowan on keyboard.
The songs' words are all originals, written by the show's authors. The songs cover a panoply of topics and subject matter, from the upbeat "Everything is Swell at Pelican Roost" where Greene and Conner expound on the virtues advantages of living in such a fine senior community as Pelican Roost to the poignant song, "My Hide" (as in "saggin', saggin', saggin', they can fix my wagon") sung delightfully to the Frankie Lane theme melody of the 50s TV series "Rawhide."
There are many other hilarious numbers including "The AARP," "Goin'Mobile," "Golf Cart Seduction" and "The Battle of Room 109." There are many adult-themed numbers, as this is intended for an adult audience. The splendid singing and comedic talent of Greene and Conner make the songs really resonate. As longtime Bay Area performing favorites, Greene and Conner will capture your attention and I am sure you will absolutely love this terrific entertainment team.
It may seem strange to host a musical comedy in a Chinese restaurant, but the Imperial Palace is not new to San Francisco theatrical audiences. "Tony and Tina's Wedding," an interactive audience participation comedy, played in this venue successfully for a long time, and that is probably true for several reasons.
The second floor entertainment room is well established enough to provide a dinner theater crowd with good food, good viewing and comfortable seating. Plus the restaurant is easy to access (only one block from the Portsmith Square parking garage) in the high tourist traffic, Chinatown area.
A complete Chinese dinner is included in the package price of $79.59 (or $99.50 for VIP seating). Every ticket includes a dim sum banquet.
The Imperial Palace is located at 818 Washington Street and the parking garage is located at 733 Kearny Street.
"Assisted Living: The Musical" is an open-ended production, and the performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at noon, with a 5 p.m. performance on Sundays (which means you are out of the show when it is still daylight). The food was great and there was plenty of it.