Review: WaistWatchers The Musical (Royal George Theatre)

| October 27, 2018

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.    

  

  

WaistWatchers the Musical 

Written by Vince di Mura (music)
   and Alan Jacobson (book, lyrics)
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)  
open run  |  tix: $45+  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Talented ensemble in search of better script

  

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.

    
The Royal George Theatre presents
    
WaistWatchers: The Musical

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

“How far have the mighty fallen?”

Standing in front of the poster of Angels in America’s first national tour, I wanted nothing more than to ask the Royal George Theatre that question. Because I was in their lobby, about to see a musical called WaistWatchers.

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.Now, theaters need to make money to stay alive, especially in a culture that doesn’t always value live entertainment. And WaistWatchers, which originated in 2013, has played nationwide since, with productions slated for Coral Gables, Florida and Port Washington, New York in the coming year. The Chicago production is an open run. Indeed, WaistWatchers’ Chicago opening night was a full house. Most of the non-critic audience members were baby boomers. In case you’re not clued in by the title: if you’re a hair under 50 years old, WaistWatchers is not the musical for you.

Martha Wash (“It’s Raining Men,” “Everybody Dance Now”) will be part of the Chicago WaistWatchers cast through October 28. In case you’re expecting a disco showcase, know that she’s part of a five-person ensemble cast – though, predictably, Wash has the eleven o’clock number preaching self-acceptance. This comes after almost 90 minutes of women grabbing each other’s breasts, a character having a prolonged orgasm after eating one bite of a chocolate bar, and musical numbers featuring, among other things, a woman dressed up as a giant Viagra.

Chocolate orgasms and dancing Viagra, not to mention the setting: a women’s gym that’s supposed to resemble Curves. The few references to smartphones doesn’t negate the fact that these jokes appear to have been written in 1995.

Above all, WaistWatchers feels incredibly, sadly dated. Yes, women are still part of a patriarchy that values youth and beauty over everything else. And often, “youth” and “beauty” translates to “under 30” and “thin.” Yes, dieting is still a multibillion-dollar industry, and specialty workout studios like AIRFit and Pure Barre pop up every few blocks in cities like Chicago. But even WeightWatchers has undergone massive rebranding for an audience that no longer wants to completely swear off chocolate. Most of the diet and exercise industry are using celebrity spokespeople of color, like Jennifer Hudson, and referring to their plans as “lifestyle changes.” Moreover, many plans do allow for long-term sustainability, aka it’s okay to eat dessert in moderation, rather than short-term results that never last.

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.

WaistWatchers is having none of this, preferring a world where women dress up in shiny Spandex and do step aerobics.

That’s not to say the performers aren’t excellent. Wash notwithstanding – she still has chops but appears to be phoning it in the entire time – the other four women have gorgeous voices, lovely comic timing, and a sense of fun WaistWatchers the script doesn’t deserve. Kiley L. McDonald, Katherine S. Barnes, Krissy Johnson and Sarah Godwin are working hard for their money, and I can only hope their paychecks are generous and their work is steady.

And what’s most disappointing about WaistWatchers: though Wash appears to be the only woman of color, the all-female cast has a body and age diversity that’s almost never seen in professional theater. Two of the characters are middle-aged, and most of this cast are average-sized women or women of size. WaistWatchers may be hackneyed, but its message of body positivity is reflected in its cast. It’s such a shame, though, that the only time we’re seeing women over a size 6 onstage, is a musical about weight loss.

  
Rating: ★★
  

WaistWatchers: The Musical continues on open run at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map), with performances Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays 2pm & 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets start at $45, and are available by phone (312-988-9000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at WaistWatchersMusical.com(Running time: 90 minutes without intermission)

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.


  

artists

cast

Martha Wash (Connie), Kiley L. McDonald (Carla), Krissy Johnson (Cheryl), Katherine S. Barnes (MC), Sarah Godwin (Cindy)

band

Andrew Nelson (bass), Mark Cristofaro (drums), Emily Whitaker (keyboards), Peter Richan (guitar), Vince di Mura (piano, conductor)

behind the scenes

Matt Silva (director), Joe Schermoly (set design), Erin Penney (properties construction), Jill Rose Keys (costume design), Vince di Mura (music director), Dani Tucci-Juraga (choreographer), Jax Robinson (production stage manager), The Heron Agency (public relations), Group Theatre Tix (group tickets)

Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.Martha Wash, Kiley L. McDonald, Krissy Johnson, Katherine S. Barnes and Sarah Godwin star in Royal George Theatre's "WaistWatchers The Musical" by Vince di Mura and Alan Jacobson, directed by Matt Silva.

18-1025

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Lauren Emily Whalen, Musical, Musical Revue, Open Run, Royal George Theatre, Video, YouTube

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