You Can Dance at Your Divorce Party

27 Feb
February 27, 2013

Most people feel that divorce is more of a funeral than a musical, but the new Divorce Party the Musical: The Hilarious Journey to Hell…and Back! is determined to convince us that there is life after divorce. And that there is sex after divorce. This naughty musical, opening Sunday at El Portal Theatre, offers tips on “how to suck it up and move on.” Its theme is Congratulations on Your Divorce, [and let us start you on] The Road to Finding a Happily Ever After. That long-winded title is actually the title of the book by Dr. Amy Botwinick from which much of the Divorce Party musical is taken. “We have celebrations for everything significant in life — weddings, funerals, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, graduations — why shouldn’t we celebrate a divorce?” she asks. “Of course,” she notes, “divorce is a drama trauma, but it needn’t be.” Botwinick’s prescription (she is a chiropractor): “Laughter is the best medicine. If you can laugh, everything looks better.” As co-conceiver, co-writer and co-producer of the musical, she and the other co-, Mark Schwartz, have concentrated on the laughter part. Schwartz is the producer of the popular Menopause The Musical, which has been running in theaters around the country for 10 years and has now been seen by 10 million theatergoers. “Menopause used to be known as ‘the silent passage’,” Schwartz notes. “Nobody spoke about it. But that’s changed now; it’s out of the closet and not a topic that is taboo anymore. “Then, too, the subject of divorce was taboo; it was considered a shonda (in Yiddish, a shame, an embarrassment) and was only spoken about in whispers. But today, with half of all first marriages and 60 percent of second ones ending in divorce, it’s a subject that affects nearly everyone and is readily talked about.” “The main message of the musical

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is ‘You’re not alone’,” Botwinick adds. “It’s about solidarity. Women, especially, need to recognize that they’re part of a gigantic sisterhood, and this play lets them know that what they’re going through is what everyone goes through. They need to be reminded that others get through it, and they will too.” When Linda, the protagonist in this life-shifting drama, dissolves her marriage, her three best friends show up to boost her spirits, give her dating tips, and a “massage for the soul.” They even organize a makeover for her — of both the outer body and the inner. The friendship between the women helps Linda go through a total transition. And the show’s creators hope that it will be helpful to anyone in the audience who needs the insights that the friends provide. The show’s humor and its conversation about sex are intended to encourage even the most uptight in the audience to relax. “Since everyone around them is laughing uproariously, it gives them permission to enjoy themselves, too,” Schwartz says. “You can see it in their body language,” Botwinick adds. “At first some are sitting with their arms folded across their chest and a stern look on their faces, but at a certain point they give up that posture; they open up and really begin to enjoy themselves.” Both Schwartz and Botwinick have gone through the divorce trauma themselves. Schwartz has two ex-wives, four children, and a significant other whom he has been with for more than 20 years. Botwinick is candid about her own divorce. “Everything looks great on paper,” she acknowledges, “but sometimes you just fall in love with the wrong person. We tried to make it work and we had two boys together, but eventually we divorced.” Then she met a lawyer named Gary and he became her “new and improved husband” — but only after she had dated him for five years. Gary had four children, two boys and two girls, and “we became a modern-day Brady bunch,” she says. It wasn’t always easy. Becoming a stepmother to four teenage children who were years older than her own two was an experience that had its own traumas. “When they came back to live at home after college, we butted heads a lot,” she confesses. “Believe me, I’ve earned those kids!” In addition to a new family, Botwinick also made new friends through her husband’s friendship with a fellow lawyer — the “significant other” of Broadway producer Mark Schwartz. “Mark and I have become best friends,” she says. When Schwartz learned about Botwinick’s Divorce book, and a second one she had written called The Divorce Party and Moving On Handbook, he

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thought the two books would make a logical follow-up to his own theatrical blockbuster, Menopause, the Musical. After a fruitful writing collaboration with Botwinick, and the addition of lyrics and choreography by Jay Falzone, Divorce Party the Musical — the Hilarious Journey to Hell…and

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Back! was ready for its premiere in West Palm Beach, Florida, with Falzone directing. After a successful run in Florida and a brief run in Canada, the show now moves on to its West Coast premiere. It stars Janna Cardia, Soara Joye Ross, Mary Jane Waddell, Samara Dunn, and the lone man in the show, the “boy toy” Scott Ahearn, who plays nine different roles, including a pizza delivery guy, a massage therapist, and a makeover artist. Schwartz hopes to take the show to an Off-Broadway venue. It’s about “two hours and a quarter,” he says, and “it cuts to the reality of life and spins it on its head.” “People want a high,” Botwinick adds. “This musical gives them a feel-good buzz, a fun vibe.” As in Menopause, the show uses classic songs that are rewritten as parody. Schwartz explains that parody “comments directly on the original song’s idea and makes fun of it. You can use another composer’s song if you follow the very specific parameters for parody, such as assuring that the rewrite does not discourage people from buying the original song.” “This is an ensemble cast,” Botwinick notes, “and two of the cast members are actually going through their own divorces at the moment. What you need to get through a divorce — or any life-changing event, for that matter, is humor, passion, and persistence.” Or one can always fall back on this Divorce Party advice, “Don’t get mad — get everything!” Divorce Party the Musical: The Hilarious Journey to Hell…and Back! El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Opens Sunday. Tue-Fri 8 pm, Sat 2 and 8 pm, Sun 1 and 6:30 pm, through April 14. Tickets: $25-65. www.elportaltheatre.com. 866-811-4111. Reprinted from the LA Stage Times, published February 26, 2013 Photo: Soara-Joye Ross, Mary Jane Waddell, Janna Cardia, Samara Dunn. Photo by Jason Gillman

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