Review: ‘WaistWatchers, The Musical’ at Penn’s Landing Playhouse in Philadelphia

WaistWatchers, The Musical, written by Alan Jacobson, is a musical about aging, friendship, and body acceptance. Directed by Matt Silva, it takes well-known musical theatre songs, such as “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line, and “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, and a couple of pop songs randomly thrown in, and changes the lyrics to fit the WaistWatchers theme. (The mega-hit Menopause The Musical does the same thing).

The cast of WaistWatchers. Photo courtesy of Penn's Landing Playhouse.
The cast of ‘WaistWatchers.’ Photo courtesy of Penn’s Landing Playhouse.

The four women, Carla (Dionne Carole), Pam Jorgensen (Cindy), Krissy Johnson (Cheryl), and Eleonore S. Thomas ( Connie)  have wonderful voices, which helps to distract from the absolute lack of a story line. The women definitely get a workout in this show and look like they are having a blast together on the stage. There are definitely some very awkward moments onstage that could have been better covered had there been a more cohesive script that added scene work to what is much more of a musical revue than a Musical. Three times during the show, the audience and I were left staring at a blank stage with flashing lights for an uncomfortable length of time while all the characters had a simultaneous costume change.

The costumes, designed by Jillian Rose Keys were well-done, and given that all the women were in sports gear almost the entire show, Keys was still able to find variety for each of the characters. The set design by Andrew Thompson, is lively and puts you in the fitness world immediately upon entering. The lighting, by Dave Todaro, makes you feel like you are in a rock concert, and definitely helps keep the tone light throughout the review. Sonny Leo does double duty as the Music Director and Choreographer. Leo’s choreography definitely helped highlight each of the women’s strengths and kept it simply delightful.

Krissy Johnson, who played Cheryl, was a standout among the women for her comic timing and helped to save some of the more uncomfortable moments on stage, such as when she sang “Viagra” set to the tune of “Maria” from West Side Story.

Basically, the show is about three women who come to Miss Cook’s Women’s Gym, and sing parody songs about some of their body-image issues and marital strifes. It was not clear throughout if these women had any other real relationships to each other outside of this fitness studio, but none of them appeared to have any other jobs as they all spent most of their day lounging about at the Juice Bar and taking class, after class at the gym.

One of the more confusing moments of the show was when Carla (Dionne Carole) sang a song about being a Cougar. She appeared to be the youngest of the cast, looking to be about thirty, and yet still singing a song about being old.

A show about aging, body-image, and self-esteem in general is not new for women, but this one written proved to be very surface-level. These women didn’t appear to have any other interests besides their fat deposits which made the show’s theme grow old within the first twenty minutes. It would have been much more refreshing to see these women’s relationships with each other versus their disgust of themselves, their bodies, and sex-lives. Although the premise of the show is supposed to be fun and a bit campy, as a woman I found it quite disconcerting that the only interests in these characters’ lives are getting in shape and what they are going to eat.

The cast of WaistWatchers. Photo courtesy of Penn's Landing Playhouse.
The cast of ‘WaistWatchers.’ Photo courtesy of Penn’s Landing Playhouse.

That being said, it would have been refreshing to see a true parody on the insecurities instead of what appeared to be more, inflating of the issues. For instance, one of the songs, “ If I Were a Size Two” pokes fun at how easy life would be if the woman were just a size two. Not only does this body-shame thinner women, but it also alludes to the idea that women who are size two have to be anorexic to stay that way.

WaistWatchers missed the mark for me. This script puts these women into incredibly stereotypical boxes and therefore sucked the humor out of what could be a hysterical idea.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

WaistWatchers, The Musical plays through May 29, 2016 at Penn’s Landing Playhouse, inside the Independence Seaport Museum –  211 South Columbus Boulevard and Walnut Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (855) 448-7469, or purchase them online.


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