Directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Sometime success comes in simple packages. A successful new musical needs interesting characters; these characters need engaging conflicts; the action of the musical needs to take place in a variety of inviting settings; and, finally, the plot driven by the conflicts must feature important themes. Donna Moore’s “Cougar the Musical,” currently running at St. Luke’s Theatre in Manhattan, addresses all four literary elements and brings to the boards a successful and entertaining theatrical experience.
Recently divorced from Gary, Lily (Mary Mossberg) wonders if a younger love interest would relieve her self-esteem woes. Clarity (Cheryl Freeman) is working on her Master’s thesis at NYU which explores the dynamic of older women dating much younger men. Mary-Marie (Babs Winn) owns a bar catering to such women. All three are “On the Prowl” in one way or the other and are exploring what it means to be a ‘cougar.’
Lily quickly finds true love with the young and handsome Buck (Danny Bernardy). Clarity (aptly named), shifts her focus from the critical view to the cougar view when she meets a hot younger man with the same name (Julio) as her battery-powered “plastic friend.” And uber-cougar Mary-Marie prefers a variety of young men which, unfortunately, lands her a date with Naked Peter who turns out to be her son. The versatile Danny Bernardy plays all the male roles and the wonderful role of Eve, manicurist to the cougars.
The conflicts of Lily, Clarity, and Mary-Marie are engaging and deeply connected to the audience of predominately (but not exclusively) middle-aged women. The three women meet their boy-toys in Mary-Marie’s cougar lounge as well as other settings. Fourteen delicious songs (with music by a variety of composers) counterpoint with Ms. Moore’s book and result in a clever and thoughtful musical. Lynne Taylor-Corbett directs and choreographs “Cougar the Musical” with precision and grace. And the orchestra (Jana Zielonka, piano and Sean Dolan, drums) ably maneuvers its way through the songs.
All three women are on their own paths toward clarity and each ends up in an emotional terrain far different from where their journeys began. “At the End of the Day” each discovers that what is important is self-discovery, self-love, and self-empowerment – all important themes. These characters are dynamic, not static, and their growth challenges the audience to grow as well. Everyone – women and men of all ages – need to understand that real love is ageless and that they need to “Say Yes” to their authentic needs and futures.
“Cougar the Musical” transcends the images its title conjures up. This is a sweet and engaging musical for everyone to see and enjoy.