by Laura Russo
George Bernard Shaw said, “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
Island resident Lynn Shore takes Shaw’s words and puts them into action with his new original musical, Happy 50ish, which began playing at the Beckett Theater on Theater Row July 15.
Described as a “midlife-crisis musical comedy,” Happy 50ish tells the story of Bob, who is forced to take stock of his life during a surprise 50th birthday party in his backyard. The action unfolds as Bob reads through a stack of birthday cards and, as a result, comes to terms with his life.
Developing the play was an intensely personal experience for Shore, a veteran performer and voice-over artist. “The show really started out of my own midlife crisis,” he explained. Shore lost two dear friends around the time of his 50th birthday. Those losses, in conjunction with his parents’ early deaths, hit him really hard.
It was in the throes of this depression that he realized, “I just had to get out of this tailspin. As a writer and a singer, I needed to start writing.”
Shore originally conceived Happy 50ish as a one-man show. But, after he enlisted the help of his good friend Mark Vogel, a renowned composer and performer, the concept “morphed into a two-man musical play,” he said.
Shore and Vogel worked on the project together for a little over four years, inviting focus groups for feedback and eventually performing in Orange County and Los Angeles. “The show was doing really great by word-of-mouth; people were bringing their brother, their cousin, their neighbor,” said Shore.
As the production gained momentum on the West Coast, Shore decided to make the move to New York, and started working with Broadway director and choreographer Paul Stancato. With Stancato’s help, Shore and Vogel gave Happy 50ish a more authentic New York flavor. Shore “couldn’t be happier with the result. The show has really been taken up a few notches.”
Shore said he finds the East Coast crowd just as interested, and the same grassroots campaign seems to be taking hold here, noting “It’s very different from what people usually say about New York. Everyone here is really willing to talk about the project, everyone is very engaged.”
Shore describes Happy 50ish as “90% funny, but with some tears, and yet very sweet, very true, and very honest.” The show features all-live music, there are no recorded tracks, and it’s “a very physical performance,” he said.
In preparation for the arduous six-shows-a-week schedule, running through August 30, Shore said he is working out twice a day, eating right, and taking vitamins.
He and his team have been rehearsing at Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance, a short commute from his new home on Roosevelt Island. Shore described the rehearsal space there as “beautiful,” and noted that he couldn’t be happier working and living on Roosevelt Island.
Shore and his wife relocated to the Island about two months ago. They weren’t strangers here, having visited close friends over the years. Now, as residents, he and his wife “absolutely love it.” Shore continued, “The views are spectacular, and it’s very easy to live here. It also helps having some of our best friends in the neighborhood.”