WaistWatchers could use an update—and a female writer | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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WaistWatchers could use an update—and a female writer

But if you must, see it before Martha Wash leaves the cast on October 28.

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Created in 2007 by Alan Jacobsen, a Floridian known for manufacturing cruise-ship entertainment, this 90-minute musical feels like just that—a contrived cruise-ship show. Packed to the gills with Weird Al-style parody songs, the one-act follows four middle-aged women trying to lose weight and navigate their relationships at Cook's Women's Gym. One of those women is played by Martha Wash, the recording artist best known for her vocals in "It's Raining Men" and "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," and her presence is one of the only exciting parts of this production. Well, until she leaves the cast on October 28.

The rest of the cast are capable singers, and their vocals are generally strong, but they've been given dated, one-dimensional material. Jacobsen's book and lyrics attempt to cover every issue that can possibly affect the stereotypical middle-aged woman, including weight loss, plastic surgery, unplanned pregnancy, and remaining desirable to a husband. Songs like "Botox Queen" (set to ABBA's "Dancing Queen") and other show-tune spoofs offer little in the way of clever turns of phrase, leaving the cast to rely on overt physical comedy (a definite talent of Sarah Godwin) and over-the-top props to get laughs. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the show for audience members to dance—and burn calories!—something many enjoyed on the night I attended. But the advertised "inspiration" does not emanate from these cartoonish characters. The script could benefit from both an update for today's sensibilities and a female perspective.   v

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