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Cougar the Musical
This fierce little musical is set in New York City and traces their intertwining journeys as three women improbably meet that younger man, and confront the consequences of Cupid’s bow. You are transported into their present lives, learn about their respective pasts, and their unflagging resolve to improve their lot.
Lily (Mary Mossberg) is an attractive divorcee in her late 40s and the mother of twins who just packed off to college. Mary-Marie (Babs Winn) is a Southern gal in her late 50s, mother of an adult son, and owner of the Cougar Bar. Clarity (Brenda Braxton) is black, in her 40s, a financial analyst turned NYU grad student And, oh yes. There’s Buck (Danny Bernardy), a guy in his 20s, who plays the multiple characters of Twilight Dude, Bourbon Cowboy, Dr. Love, Goliath, Naked Peter, and cross-genders himself into Eve, an older Asian manicurist.
Cougar is n is designed to turn your notions about over-40 women inside-out. Moore has a mischievous sense of the do’s and don’t of dating for menopausal women and goes ahead and breaks the rules in creative and flirtatious ways. Watching the women singing, dancing, deliberating, or simply diving into a new relationship is fun, and inspiring. They are sometimes takie risks that audience members in similar circumstances wouldn’t dare take. But that's much of the show's appeal.
The songs are bold and sassy. From the opening number “On the Prowl” belted out by the ensemble in skin-tight outfits, to the sterner-toned “My Terms” sung by Babs Winn’s Mary-Marie, to the more contemplative closing number “At the End of the Day,” the the songs propel the narrative forward and serve to unpack the minds and hearts of these women. Although no collective truth emerges “Say Yes” certainly hints at the female empowerment theme, , especially affirming mature women who have the courage to pick up the pieces of their lives and reassemble,them into a fresh vital whole. Though romantically-tinged the heavier stress is on women becoming self-aware, and perhaps a wee bit wary of the opposite sex.
The dances are by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, who also directs. Most are cougar-inspired, a combination of sprung rhythm and sharp claw-like movements. No doubt your eye will be drawn to the veteran dancer Braxton. As Dance Captain, she ups the level of the choreography, adding definition and zest to each routine.
Ultimately the hit-making charm is the acting. Babs Winn, as Mary-Marie, is delicious as the Southern-fried gal who calls the shots (alcoholically, and otherwise) at the Cougar Bar. Even in the farcical scene with Naked Peter, that pushes her character into caricature, she manages to pull it off with a touch of blushing dignity. Mary Mossberg, as Lily, makes a good showing as the divorcee, twice over, and is the most likeable character on stage. Brenda Braxton, as Clarity, is the triple-threat with her warm, intelligent performance. Danny Bernardy, acquits himself well in his multiple male parts and his solo turn as Eve, the Asian manicurist.
Although Moore waffles by not clearly defining Cougar as a serious musical, you get a lot of lessons on love, spring-autumn relationships, and the ways that the English language can color your thinking about men and women. The very title of the show is indicted via an academic reflection by Clarity for its anti-feminist overtones. After all, it is a label that is derogatory to women, suggesting a low-transformation from a human state to a bestial one.
Ultimately Ms. Moore poses the implicit question: Should an older woman really be called a “cougar” if she is dating a younger man? Why not just call her a woman, and leave it at that.
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free
Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show
Book of Mormon -CD
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