Review: ‘Curvy Widow’ Is Creaky and Coarse
By Christopher Caggiano, Contributing Writer, August 14, 2017
As I stood in the lobby of the Westside Theatre, a diminutive women of a certain age came up to me and my theatergoing companion, shook our hands, and introduced herself as Bobby Goldman, the author and subject of the evening’s entertainment, Curvy Widow.
“Thank you for coming to my show,” she exclaimed ebulliently. “What brought you to the show tonight?” Caught unawares, I told the truth. “Um, I’m a critic.” “Well, then I really thank you for coming to the show.”
While it might seem churlish to trash Ms. Goldman’s work after so warm a welcome, no amount of glad-handing in the world could make up for the hoary and coarse affair that is Curvy Widow. This new musical, which allegedly had a successful run at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ, simply screams “vanity project” from start to finish.
Curvy Widow is Bobby Goldman’s own story writ large upon the musical stage. After Goldman suddenly loses her husband of many years, she finds herself back on the dating scene. Now, the amorous life of elders is certainly a worthy topic for exploration, but there’s liberating, and then there’s crude. And Curvy Widow is far more of the latter than the former.
As currently presented, Curvy Widow plays like a middling entry for NYMF (New York Musical Festival) with a slightly higher budget, although I’ve seen more convincing sets in community theater. Supposedly, the show takes place in a SoHo loft, but the licentious proceedings of the show’s book gave the dark-wood set an unfortunate ‘70s porn vibe. What’s more, the set is decorated rather oddly, with a pasta maker plunked in a bookcase full of books, and a bottle of Sriracha cheek-by-jowl with bottles of liquor.
Goldman’s humor is decidedly of the Borscht Belt variety, although I do have to admit I laughed a few times, like when Goldman discovers she can pay for her husband’s funeral with a credit card: “You mean, I can get miles?” Drew Brody’s songs are only of a slightly higher quality than Goldman’s dialogue. The songs feel shapeless, flavorless, and feature bland, repetitive lyrics.
Curvy Widow is the kind of show where you sit and pity the poor performers for the varied indignities forced upon them. One of the production’s few saving graces is its star, the herculean Nancy Opel. Opel has a clarion-like singing voice, and the ability to make almost anything funny.
All that said, Curvy Widow isn’t entirely without merit. There’s clearly an audience for this kind of show. Many of the people sitting around me seemed to be having a grand old time. There are some passable songs, and some moderately enjoyable interludes in the story. But the show ends with an unconvincing denouement involving Goldman making a major life choice, the justification for which felt forced in the extreme.
Curvy Widow presented at the Westside Theatre Upstairs, running through October 15, 2017. Book by Bobby Goldman; music and lyrics by Drew Brody. Directed by Peter Flynn; choreography by Marcos Santana; scenic design by Rob Bissinger; costume design by Brian Hemesath; lighting design by Matthew Richards; sound design by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab; musical direction by Andrew Sotomayor; music supervision by Wayne Barker. Cast: Nancy Opel, Andrea Bianchi, Aisha de Haas, Elizabeth Ward Land, Ken Land, Alan Muraoka, Christopher Shyer, Nicole Powell and Matthew Shepard.
Cover: Alan Muraoka, Andrea Bianchi, Ken Land, Nancy Opel, Aisha de Has, Christopher Shyer, and Elizabeth Ward Land in ‘Curvy Widow;’ photo: Matthew Murphy.