The easiest way to describe the home-grown musical “Wrinkles” is a comical marriage of “A Chorus Line” and “The Golden Girls.”
The musical, which gives a voice to aging women, first premiered at Cape Cod Theatre Company two years ago to sold-out audiences. Open to input and changes, Cape Cod playwrights and lyricists Wilderness Sarchild and Naomi Turner returned to Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater to workshop their show for the second time (the first time was 12 years ago, when it was only a 30-minute play).
This latest version takes the musical to a whole new level, complete with all Actor’s Equity performers between the ages of 60 and 80 who have performed on Broadway, in film and/or on television, along with the Emmy Award-winning director Dani Davis (who most recently directed “The Full Monty” at Cape Rep) and musical director Peter Hodgson. Additionally, some old songs were dropped and new music was added by local composer Malcolm Granger.
The play-within-a-play takes place in the retirement community of Paradise Lagoon. The annual all-female musical revue, “Wrinkles,” is beginning rehearsals long before the opening. Each woman is showing her age in one way or another, from aches and pains and sagging skin to more serious health concerns like Parkinson’s, hearing loss, and undiagnosed headaches.
The underpinnings of the show are friendship, loss, self love, and the courage to age gracefully. Many of the lyrics echo these themes: “We’re proud of all of our wrinkles. We’ve earned them through and through,” while the funny number “Cosmetic Surgery Blues” questions whether to age naturally or not and the price tag that goes with the latter.
The play also explores marital relationships, with Ms. D (convincingly played by Susan J. Jacks, complete with a hard edge and Brooklyn accent) having had three husbands. Meanwhile, Pam was in an abusive relationship and hoped for a reprieve when her husband was put in a nursing home with dementia. As Pam, Diane J. Findlay sings an emotionally charged and originally titled “Do Not Resuscitate.”
The Southern Val, played by the spirited Barbara McCulloh, gets many laughs from the audience when she shares the details about her affair with a man half her age. Portraying Louise, Gael Schaefer tenderly reveals how having Parkinson’s is not her greatest burden, but rather the untimely death of her opioid-addicted daughter, who left a young daughter behind.
Leslie Becker genuinely portrays the soul-searching and kind-hearted Aja, who is struggling with an illness, while her partner Sal devotedly stands by her side. As Sal, Julia Lema’s tremendous voice is highlighted in the touching love song “Magic Wand.”
Christopher Ostrom’s scenic design is simple and crisp while also being functional, mostly centering around a rehearsal space with sliding white shutter-like sections. Seth Bodie’s costume designs are beautifully varied and elegant, showing off the women’s best features. Owain Rhys Davies’ choreography is lively and challenging, especially the impressive tap routine and the flashy grand finale that the actresses perform with aplomb.
Just like a fine bottle of wine, WHAT’s two-hour long “Wrinkles, the Musical” has only improved with age.
“Wrinkles, the Musical”
At Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater
Through Oct. 27
Information and reservations: 508-349-9428