Mountain Playhouse musical mocks mid-life maladies

By Cynthia Bombach Helzel
Trib Total Media

September 26, 2014

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 Oh, the woes of getting older! Explore the funnier side of middle age through music and dance. 'Midlife! The Crisis Musical' plays Sept. 30 – Oct. 12 at the Mountain Playhouse. The cast, from left, Frederic Heringes, Mary Ehlinger, David Schmittou and Joy Lynn Jacobs.

Navigating midlife can be like riding a seesaw: While career advancement and home equity are building up, bodies and relationships may be breaking down. It's no wonder that midlife is a time of crisis for many people.

The fears and foibles of middle age are explored with humor in "Midlife! The Crisis Musical," a comedy slated as the last show of the season at Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown.

"It takes situations that could be worrisome and adds humor to them," says Mary Ehlinger, who plays several characters in the vignette-style show.

Director Jacob Toth says the show appeals to middle-age men and women equally, unlike other popular midlife shows such as "Menopause the Musical." Both men and women suffer their share of the indignities and strains of middle age that are portrayed in the show — health issues, divorce, aging parents and empty nests.

The musical is acted by an ensemble of three men and three women. Toth says the middle-age cast members appreciate the show's humor. "The six actors are so much fun individually," he says. "They laugh at themselves, as well, because they've all experienced these things."

While the musical is humorous throughout, there are some touching scenes, such as the one depicting a couple receiving their AARP cards.

The music is all-original. Songs such as "Welcome to Mid-Life," "Turning Forty," "Biological Clock," "Boys Night In" and "What Did I Come In Here For?" add an extra layer to the script. "They're more like 'singing dialogue,' " Ehlinger says. "They tell stories."

Ehlinger, a Mountain Playhouse favorite who has been away from its stage for several years, plays three characters in the show. One is facing retirement, another is dealing with divorce and the third is learning to live with an empty nest.

"I get a kick out of all the ones that require dancing, because, at my age, just keeping my balance is an achievement," Ehlinger jokes.

She says that, while not everyone in middle age has experienced every situation in the show, most can relate to each "crisis" through the experiences of family and friends.

Toth cautions that the musical is not suited for children. "It's at a PG-13 level," he says. "There's a little bit of harsh language, and it deals with things (kids) may not understand or appreciate."

Adults of a "certain age," however, will find much to appreciate in a show that allows them to laugh at the things they understand all too well.

"You're not getting older, you're getting better," Ehlinger says. "Midlife is not the end of life."

The opening-night celebration Oct. 1 will start with a Chamber of Commerce mixer from 5 to 6:45 p.m., featuring a wine-tasting from B&L Wine Cellars and entertainment by Jane West. After the show, ticketholders are invited to the Tuscany Room of the adjacent Green Gables restaurant for a free dance party with DJ Tim Roberts.