Nancy Opel deserves to be up for this new season’s awards for her dynamic, captivating performance in the musical “Curvy Widow,” with a clever book by Bobby Goldman and lively music and lyrics by Drew Brody.
The book springs from Goldman’s life, as she is the widow of noted screenwriter and playwright James Goldman. Opel plays Bobby, a woman in her fifties suddenly thrust into widowhood and having to get a fresh start in life, which includes taking a stab at the modern dating scene. Therein is the fun, as well as the serious meaning in this sassy tale wittily spun and given a colorful, appealing performance by Opel, who flashes a strong voice and winsome personality.
The solidity of Bobby’s life at the outset is depicted via Bobby and company singing “Under Control,” until suddenly it isn’t, and Bobby finds herself at sea. Fortunately, she has the encouragement of close friends Caroline (Andrea Bianchi), Heidi (Elizabeth Ward Land) and Joan (Aisha de Haas), who sing their support. There is also forward-looking advice from Alan Muraoka as her psychiatrist, who urges her to get laid. The cast members play a variety of roles as director Peter Flynn and choreographer Marcos Santana keep them zipping in and out of the situations that Bobby confronts.
Reluctantly, Bobby takes to internet dating sites and adopts the correspondence handle of Curvy Widow. She meets an array of men, married and single. She bemoans that she goes from widow to being “a piece of ass.” The various encounters are hilarious, whether in dialogue or songs expressing her dismay.
Eventually she lands a guy with whom she develops excellent rapport. But a question is raised: does she really want to give up her new independence for a fully committed relationship? One ploy annoys me. In the midst of her adventures her dead husband Jim (Ken Land) materializes a few times to express jealousy at her new encounters. It’s an old idea, and it becomes gimmicky, interfering with the smooth flow of the rest. Yes, it is a way of trying to show conflict in Bobby, but there is nothing in her behavior to suggest that emotional attachment to the man she loved is preventing her from realistically moving on with her life.
The high spirits of the production and the energetic delivery of the songs combine to be entertaining. One number, for example, is “Gynecologist Tango” and it is a hoot. Nancy Opel, who has had a busy and varied theater career, seizes the opportunity to really standout in this performance. At the Westside Theater/Upstairs, 407 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed August 4, 2017.