Judy Lisi joined Weight Watchers seeking help to shed a few pounds.Like countless others, she did lose weight. But like no one else, she found in Weight Watchers the raw material for a musical comedy.
Lisi, the president of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, turned her experience into Waistwatchers, which runs through May 10 at TBPAC's Jaeb Theater.
The show revolves around a diverse group of people who, for diverse reasons, are at a fictional weight loss club that's clearly based on Weight Watchers.
"It really is a good, solid program,'' Lisi said of Weight Watchers. "But at the meetings I found myself daydreaming. I kept looking at these people thinking, 'What is their backstory?' That's how the idea for the show came about.''
Lisi's play, with songs by Stan Collins and Alison Burns, is lighthearted, silly fun. At one point the characters dress as various kinds of junk food and sing a song called Refrigerator Tango.
But Lisi also found that Weight Watchers meetings were about more than losing weight. She met divorced men looking for new friends. Mothers and daughters went together, not just to lose weight, but also, it seemed to her, to work through issues in their relationships.
The characters in Waistwatchers face similar dynamics. In the end, they come to realize that what the scale says isn't all that matters — happiness and health are the real essentials.
Lisi says she really did join the program solely to lose weight. At 5 feet 3, she had gained an extra 7 pounds and decided to take action before she added more. She says she liked the program's emphasis on daily exercise — she lost her weight in three weeks mostly by walking every morning — and on keeping journals of what she ate as well as her exercise.
Soon, she'll get to revisit the source of her inspiration.
"I lost the 7 pounds,'' she said. "But what happened was, I went on vacation and put them right back on. I do plan to go back.''
Marty Clear is a freelance writer in Tampa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.