IF YOU GO
What: Musical that examines the pains, pleasures and pitfalls of married life
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday & selected matinees through September 26.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL
The musical "Married Alive," a comical series of vignettes about the trials and travails of life after the walk down the aisle, is currently honeymooning at the Broadway Palm in Fort Myers. While generally entertaining and easy on the eyes and ears, the show's here-there-and-everywhere storytelling style might foretell a rocky future for these lovebirds.
The premise is simple. "Married Alive" illustrates issues - child rearing, careers, families, communication and more through the eyes of two couples - newlyweds and a more "experienced" pair. Book and lyrics come from Sean Grennan; music comes from Leah Okimoto. This is the show's second appearance on local stages in less than two years; Gulfshore Playhouse staged a version at the Norris Center in Naples in March 2008.
Then, as now, the core of "Married Alive" consists of a series of frothy, breezy, up-tempo ditties that attempt to shed light on what life is like as a married couple. The four-person cast sings, dances, claps, slaps and even raps in an effort to spice up the fairly bland story. Despite its eminently likable cast however, "Married Alive" seems likely to land in divorce court.
Director Michael Brindisi seems to struggle with the show's momentum and pacing, although blame for the patchy writing and uneven narrative structure shouldn't fall squarely on his plate. Attempts to devote equal time to the younger and older couples mean constant changes of scene and scattershot efforts to cover a wide variety of topics leave the show feeling a bit like a sitcom. More than a dozen marital issues are addressed - but the problems start as the lights go up on each new setting and resolutions arrive before the next scene change.
Much of "Married Alive" suffers from the sitcom-simple conceit. The show is amusing, true, but sacrifices any sort of meaningful commentary for easy jokes about credit cards, babbling wives, big-screen TVs or amorous newlyweds. Moreover, the non-linear structure of the piece - vignettes anchored around a central theme instead of a strong storyline - does little to actively engage the audience and drive the narrative forward.
The cast does their best to create fully rounded characters out of the one-dimensional cardboard corners they've been written into. Cheyenne Nelson (Diane) succeeds perhaps the best. Whether comically cavorting around the stage in a plaid skirt and schoolgirl uniform as part of her husband's adolescent sex fantasy or reacting to the very real issues of ageism in the workplace, she creates a very real, vulnerable and ultimately approachable character that's simply doing her best to live, work, love and play from day to day the best way she knows how.
Jeff Ostermueller (Paul) and Kara Farmer (Erin) pair nicely as the younger half of this fractured fairy tale. Their plaintive duet "Fly To Me," an ode to the pressures facing working couples, is some of Grennan's finer lyric work and the duo delivers in fine vocal style. I wish they'd had more opportunities to showcase those talents instead of cliched comic tropes about how badly husbands and wives communicate and the agonies of visiting the parents at Christmas. A second-half attempt to compare child-rearing to a battlefield might ring true - but the scene lands with a loud, noisy thud.
Kevin T. Murphy (Ron) gamely dons a pair of shades and pounds out a rap in "That's Right, Sucka," a mildly amusing if out-of-touch paean to modern teenagers. He sells the preposterous number, as well as the equally outlandish "O' Darlin" number that reduces issues faced by mature couples in the bedroom to a series of Viagra jokes.
The foibles of love and marriage are fertile comic ground and "Married Alive" is certainly no loveless marriage, even if the show might best be advised to seek couples counseling and spend a bit more time polishing the wedding vows. The cast is thoroughly likable and certainly knows how to sing the frothy pop songs that make up the score. The Tetris-inspired set is a must-see as well.