Thursday, July 22, 2010

What if 40 is the New 15?

40 is the New 15
Craig Woolson, Tod Macofsky, Dana Mellor, Karole
Foreman and John Allsopp

Somewhere around the age of forty, most of us begin to look at our lives and take stock of where we are. Questions arise....have we accomplished the goals of our youth or have we veered off in unexpected directions? Even if we have achieved success, nagging thoughts can persist…is this all there is, do I have any unfinished business, is there still time to ask for a “do-over,” and always, where do I go from here?

These are questions that writers Larry Todd Johnson and Cindy O’Connor asked as well, and the resulting exploration became their new musical 40 is the New 15. The world premiere of the new show is playing at NoHo Arts Center for a six week run through August 22nd and is produced by the Academy for New Musical Theatre.

ANMT has nurtured the musical through a development process which includes participation in Stephen Schwartz’s Disney/ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, a workshop production presented in 2009 at the Secret Rose Theatre, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, and early readings at the Colony Theatre in Burbank and Theatre Building Chicago.

Johnson and O’Connor’s characters are immensely appealing and their situations speak to us all, regardless of whether your specific circumstances are the same or not. Without a doubt, you will find yourself here. The songs are fresh and memorable, with haunting melodies (“Better Than This,” “August 14th, 1983”) and hysterical lyrics (“Nerds,” “I Turned 40 This Summer”).

At the top of the show we meet five adults who have just turned 40. Karole Foreman is Winter Graham, “Ms. Diva Fashionista,” who at the age of 15 scored in the top .02 percentile in the nation in both math and science. Foreman is a powerhouse singer whose journey from awkward teenager to glamorous high fashion model is a stunning transformation.

Dana Mellor is Sarah, a former gold medal World Champion gymnast who is now a single mom and coach to her own gymnast daughter, a somewhat less ambitious version of herself. Tod Macofsky plays the very adorable Kevin (K.P.), who has turned his love of musical theatre and decorating into a career as a writer of musicals and sitcoms…all the while carrying around some very important unfinished questions about his past.

Mellor and Macofsky have worked with the show previously, and in both cases their history with the project enhances the depth of their characters’ inner life. Mellor’s quirky bursts of youthful Valley girl energy will make you laugh out loud and Macofsky is a joy every time he appears onstage. Through his story, especially, we remember the heartbreak, limitations and oddity that was the 80’s (think “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Dynasty, Barbra in Yentl, and more).

Completing the cast are newcomers Craig Woolson as Robby, or Dr. Robert Newton as he is now known, and John Allsopp as Oren Zimmerman. At 15, Robby’s dream was to play Major League baseball or at least become a coach. Oren, who was proud of his high school nerd status, eventually became the multi-millionaire CEO of a major software conglomerate. Highly successful in their careers, each still feels like something is missing.

40 is the New 15 also features an alternate cast on select nights of the run, four of which have worked with the show before. Ed Martin (Robby), Lindsey Mixon (Winter), Kevin Noonchester (Oren) and Gretchen Weiss (Sarah U.S. from last summer) join Patrick Foley as Kevin in this cast. I had seen Ed, Lindsey and Kevin do beautiful work on the show in the past and I look forward to seeing what they bring to their roles now.

Michele Spears directs and composer Cindy O’Connor musical directs, in addition to leading the four-piece band on keyboards. Spears, a master at improvisation, always has a way of bringing out the best in her actors with her thoughtful direction.

Moving from Act I freshman year of high school 1983 to present day by the end of the show, the five characters in 40 is the New 15 look for answers that will help them understand how they got to where they are today, and will also help them determine what’s next. You’ll find yourself right there with them every step of the way.

40 is the New 15 runs through August 22nd at NoHo Arts Center. Performances are Thursday through Saturday evenings, with Saturday and Sunday matinees. Tickets are available at

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