"Assisted Living, the Musical" is a rousing success in San Francisco!

Zoe Conner (front) and Bob Greene (back) in "Assisted Living, The Musical"

Photos by David Allen

My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that's walked,

A song that's spoke,

I laugh so hard I almost choke,
When I think about myself.
~Maya Angelou

“Assisted Living: The Musical”, a very, very funny musical comedy, has just opened in the Imperial Palace in San Francisco to “test the West” in a National Tour orchestrated by its authors, Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett, and national production and musical director Skip Brevis, a New York based musical director, composer and arranger.

In an interview this past week, Rick Compton and Betsey Bennett let me in on some of the hilarious insights that unfolded as they began collaboration on this new musical. They have written and created a dozen musicals together over the past 15 years that they have lived and worked in Naples, Florida. Rick has served as a musical director and pianist in orchestras for years and Betsy has performed as an actress and singer, with both of them performing their shows as a team before they began to cast aspirations towards a national musical comedy tour.

This delightfully funny show pokes fun at ourselves and the senior situations that seem to constantly bombard us. I cannot tell you how many times a day that I am certain that I have done something or put something away in a certain place, only to find I haven’t. What is even worse is walking from one part of my house to another, with some objective in mind, only to find myself standing in front of a cupboard asking myself, what the “H” did I come here to do, what am I looking for, why am I here? Frustration seems to be our constant companion as we get older, and even though it is not that attractive a companion, it seems to accompany us everyplace, a blind date with a real memory problem.

We have to laugh at ourselves about the frailties of growing older, or we may become very angry people. “Assisted Living: The Musical”, celebrates in a humorous way the many little anomalies of joining the “senior set”. This wonderful little comedy pokes fun at growing older gracefully (and perhaps even a little disgracefully), shedding light and laughter on senior romance, internet dating, memory glitches and the pain and joy and unique aspects of moving to senior communities. I have asked myself if there is ever real retirement after years of work-place regimen, or does one simply find different work routines and obligations to take our former working regimen’s place? Why do we feel we need to “step up to the plate” to assist our neighbors or our community or the many clubs and groups proliferating where senior activities are paramount? Why would anyone agree to become the Homeowners Association President? Believe me, being a good citizen can become a big pain in the derriere as well as shackle you to a lot of thankless civic work. And if you’re really stupid or losing it, you might even agree to allow yourself to be re-elected or re-drafted into that insane obligation three times in a row, as I have done. What good opportunities and advantages does living in a senior community or assisted living facility provide you might ask? Well one of the characters in the fictional retirement community in which this comedy takes place describes her new as “sort of like a journey on a cruise ship - - except the final destination is not Catalina!”

When you infuse clever humor with outstanding talented actors, you come up with a show that garners a lot of attention very quickly and that is exactly what we have in “Assisted Living: The Musical”. Compton & Bennett's musical comedy opened in Naples to immediate kudos in June, 2009 at Fred's Diner. Within days, it was sold out for weeks in advance and had attracted the attention of The Associated Press, The BBC and numerous regional publications. From Fred's, the show moved north to a nine-month sold-out run in Central Florida, and performances along Florida's East Coast and as far north as Philadelphia. Through March of this year, the show has played to thousands at country clubs throughout the Southwest Florida, winning standing ovations at each performance. After playing to packed houses - " to the limits of the fire code" according to co-author, Betsy Bennett, the show came to the attention of New York producers and has been in development for a national tour for more than a year.

The San Francisco show is a terrific show and again, the selection of lead actors is paramount to a successful run, with Bob Greene (Actor’s Equity Assn. member) and Zoe Conner in the lead roles, accompanied by the young and very talented Robbie Cowan on keyboard. This show is bound to draw audiences from every nook and cranny, all around the Bay Area, entertaining a broad spectrum of audiences. I laughed, I cried, I almost died! It is so outrageously funny that I immediately went to the show’s director after the performance and asked if I could purchase a DVD of the show. Unfortunately, they did not have one available yet, but I left my card and told them that if and when they do put one together, I want to purchase it.. A DVD is nothing like the real live show, but I, myself, would love to see this one over and over again. It is so funny and so well done!

The songs’ words are all originals, written by the show’s authors and they cover a panoply of topics and subject matter, from the upbeat “Everything is Swell At Pelican Roost” where Greene and Conner expound on the virtues advantages of living in such a fine senior community as Pelican Roost to the poignant song, “My Hide” (as in “saggin’, saggin’, saggin’ - - they can fix my wagon”) sung delightfully to the Frankie Lane theme melody of the 50’s TV series “Rawhide”. There are many other numbers including “The AARP”, “Goin’Mobile”, “Golf Cart Seduction”, and “The Battle of Room 109” are equally hilarious. There are many adult themed numbers, as this is intended for an adult audience. There was an entire family (from high school age to seniors) at the table with us and they absolutely loved the show! Most of all, it is the splendid singing and comedic talent of Greene and Conner that make the songs really resonate. As long time Bay Area performing favorites, Greene and Conner will capture your attention and I am sure you will absolutely love this terrific entertainment team.

It may seem strange to host a musical comedy in a Chinese Restaurant, but the Imperial Palace is not new to San Francisco theatrical audiences. “Tony and Tina’s Wedding”, an interactive audience participation comedy, played in this venue very successfully for a very long time, and that is probably true for several reasons. First, the second floor entertainment room is well established enough to provide a dinner theater crowd with good food, good viewing, comfortable seating and second, and very important, is its ease of accessibility (only one block from the Portsmith Square Parking Garage) in the high tourist traffic, Chinatown area. A complete Chinese dinner is included in the package price of $79.59 (or $99.50 for VIP seating). Every ticket includes a Dim Sum Banquet. The Imperial Palace is located at 818 Washington Street and the parking garage is located at 733 Kearny Street. “Assisted Living: The Musical” is an open ended production, and the performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 12 noon, with a 5 p.m. performance on Sundays (which means you are out of the show when it is still daylight outside). The food was great and there was plenty of it! Call 1(888) 88LAUGH (885-2844) for information or reservations or visit their web site at http://www.assistedlivingthemusical.com/ on the internet!