There has never been a musical quite like Curvy Widow. Bobby Goldman’s autobiographical tale of a 50-something woman grieving the sudden loss of her longtime husband in the internet age is the most fearless and entertaining original musical about the resurrection of the human spirit in some time.
How does an uptown Manhattanite in 2017 cope with the death of a spouse? How and when does one move forward in a respectful manner? Curvy Widow succeeds in answering these difficult questions in colorful, memorable, and often hilarious ways. Thanks in large part to composer Drew Brody’s rich, impressive trove of songs that span the arc of grief from initial shock to, ultimately, inner peace.
And did I mention the abundance of big laughs along the way? Yes, this is a musical with grief at its core, but make no mistake, there is nothing maudlin about Curvy Widow. Four songs in and our heroine takes a sharp turn into the world of sex and online dating, something completely alien to her. Thus begins a rollercoaster of Bobby Goldman a.k.a. Curvy Widow’s Alice In Wonderland-esque misadventures with men, (single, married and otherwise). At one point, our gal Curvy ineptly tries to purchase condoms for the first time, and it makes me think how much Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex and the City pals would worship this show.
One of Curvy Widow’s triumphs is the refreshing fact that we now have an original and smart musical featuring a cast where everybody is over fifty. There was a time in the not so distant past where a musical about a woman’s honest investigation of sex after fifty, and a widow at that, would have been a no go, or a hard sell at best. Kudos to Goldman for not only having the chutzpah to bring her unique story, warts and all, to the stage, but for enlisting Director Peter Flynn to guide with a playful and sensitive touch.
Tony Award nominated actress Nancy Opel is a tour de force as Bobby Goldman. There is a subtle physical metamorphosis that Opel pulls off and it’s fascinating to watch. In early scenes, Opel holds herself with a tension that almost mystically subsides into a lightness of being as Curvy becomes comfortable with others, and herself.
The cast also includes Andrea Bianchi, Aisha de Haas, Elizabeth Ward Land, Alan Muraoka, Chris Shyer, and Ken Land as Jim (James) Goldman, Bobby’s real life deceased husband, and the celebrated writer of Follies, The Lion in Winter, and many other famous written works. Some of the most affecting scenes in Curvy Widow feature Bobby interacting with (deceased) Jim who haunts, taunts, and criticizes her from the Beyond as she tries to move on and date men.
Ultimately, Curvy Widow is a survival story delivered in a ‘Wham Bam Thank you Ma’am’ eighty five minute package. Relatable for any adult no matter how far away middle age may be, it reminds us that life is never black and white. It’s an ever-changing mosaic of emotion. Sometimes we can find the humor, however dark, and laugh at death. In jubilant celebrations, there’s melancholy. In one scene, as Curvy lays on her bathroom floor writhing with illness, miserable and alone, she sings about how nice it is to lay on the bathroom floor. And we laugh. Even though we are genuinely sad for her. And upset about the fact that this wonderful woman was unceremoniously dumped by yet another loser she met online as she desperately tries to piece her life back together. Sometimes in life there’s unexpected crazy crap, and what do you do? Do you drink coffee? Do you eat fruit?
Curvy Widow: Ballsy. Brilliant. See it.
Curvy Widow runs at The George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey through May 21. For more information and tickets, click here.