HUDSON — Playwright-lyricist-composer Gil Perlroth just hit 90 years of age. Supposedly, he retired a couple of decades ago to a 55+ village in Gulfport after many prolific years of writing plays, ads and promotional films in Connecticut.
Instead of lazy days of leisure, however, Perlroth caught his second or third wind and trained his laser eye and wit on his new home base.
He produced a series of plays about the people who populate it, mainly other retirees, particularly the ones who aren’t so retiring.
His works are done with love and respect, but with insights about retirees’ lives, hopes, dreams, fantasies, regrets and challenges that only an insider would understand.
One of his best and most popular is Ain’t Retirement Grand!, a series of vignettes about the joys and demands of being in the post-employment set. It’s played all over the Tampa Bay area and the rest of the U.S., and it’s running through July 8 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.
It’s the second of a string of light-hearted musicals and plays at the Show Palace that started in April with the wildly successful Menopause the Musical, and continue through the summer with Honky Tonk Laundry and My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy!, as well as several one-night specials and tribute acts.
"We found out this time last year that his is what people want," said Pete Clapsis, who directed and appears in Retirement and co-starred in Assisted Living, the Musical, the show that played in this time slot a year ago. That one sold out nearly every performance once word got out that it was the opposite of what its title suggested, in other words, knee-slapping funny.
Ain’t Retirement Grand! is indeed grand, thanks to its cast — Ellie Pattison (Miss Adelaide in Guys & Dolls), Heather Krueger (Fastrada in Pippin), Tom Bengston (Governor in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) and Clapsis (Doc in West Side Story and writer of the parody Santa Got Run Over By a Grandma). These cast members work together like a well-oiled clock, and their duets and solos are just as accomplished.
Retirement is mostly hilarious takes on retirementhood: how to tell when your HMO is a dud; when your son’s new wife is a calamity; the pluses and minuses of sex after 60; the very first thing you do after you retire (I’m not telling. You have to see the show to find out); Florida’s senior drivers (I think we’ve become a national joke); how annoying a newly-retired husband can be to a stay-at-home wife; the popularity of a single, unattached male in a retirement village full of widows and divorcees; and the fiasco of writing a will late in life.
Among my favorites: "You know you’re a senior when everything in your body either dries up or leaks."
Then there are couple of serious moments that let Krueger show her singing chops, including her powerful Broadway belt, as she ruminates on finding love as a widow or discovering that wrinkles aren’t so bad after all. These two songs are so revealing they may bring tears, but worry not, they don’t slow the show down. Laughs return within moments.
Kudos to Todd Everest for a set design that allows for smooth entrances and exits, and quick costume changes; music director Matty Colonna for hitting song cues right on the button; sound and light designer Michael Sessa for unobtrusive, but effective sounds and lights; stage manager Jill Godfrey for keeping the pace; and the uncredited choreographer who provided nice movements throughout the show.
Perlroth has written many plays and musicals with local (and national) appeal. Some are better than others, but area audiences have a chance to see one of his best at the Show Palace. They would be advised not to miss it.