70, Girls, 70 Review – Don’t Mess with Seniors

Cast of 70, GIRLS, 70 - Photo by Doug Engalla
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Based on “Breath of Spring,” a 1958 play by Peter Coke, and adapted to film in 1960 (“Make Mine Mink”), 70, GIRLS, 70 debuted on Broadway in 1971. Since then, the female lead, has been played by numerous well-known actors, include Mildred Natwick (1971), Jane Powell (2001), and Olympia Dukakis (2006) and secured several award nominations. Now, over 50 years after its premiere, The Group Rep breathes new life into the comic romp in 2023. With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb from a book by Norman L. Martin and Ebb, 70, GIRLS, 70 is sure to please today’s modern audience.

Carol Weiss – Photo by Doug Engalla

The time is 1970, and the place is mostly in the basement ballroom of the New Sussex Arms Hotel on Broadway in New York. Ida (Barbara Minkus) has been missing from the New Sussex Arms for quite some time. She was old, poor, and sick – and could not afford medical treatment. After the clerk at a pharmacy was rude to her, she stole a thermometer she couldn’t afford – and thus began her life of crime. After all, who would suspect a little old lady of theft? From a small thermometer, her capers grew – and finally she was stealing furs to finance her needs – and enjoying every minute of it. When she returns to her friends living in the New Sussex Arms – all seniors and veterans of Broadway shows – she discovers that the hotel owners are planning to sell the hotel to developers and evict the tenants. Ida cannot let this happen – and so she concocts a scheme to save her friends. Why not have the over-the-hill gang hit local department store fur departments big time – and keep the proceeds to buy the failing hotel? After all, as Ida assures the potential evictees, who would suspect a bunch of diddly elderly folks?

Regan Carrington, Judy Nazemetz, Fay DeWitt, Barbara Minkus, and Doug Haverty – Photo by Doug Engalla

Skillfully directed by Bruce Kimmel with musical director Carol Weiss, musical staging by Kimmel and Kay Cole, and choreography by Cheryl Baxter 70, GIRLS, 70 is a clever, funny, old-fashioned musical comedy. Minkus and the other residents of the Sussex Arms act up a storm as the seniors who seem to have been forgotten by time and include Cynthia Bryant, Regan Carrington, Fay DeWitt, Dawn Halloran, Hisato Masuyama, Judy Nazemetz, Cynthia Payo, Lloyd Pedersen, Leota Rhodes, Rob Schaumann, Sara Shearer, Danica Waitley, Carol Weiss, and – last but not least – Doug Haverty. And let’s not forget the live band – Carol Weiss (rollicking piano), Tim Christensen (bass), Thomas Silcott (drums), and Cierra Lundy (percussion). Everyone conspires to keep the laughs flowing and the songs coming. Speaking of songs, 70, GIRLS, 70 features some of the cleverest lyrics yet, including the tribute to death, “Where Does the Elephant Go?” Get ready to laugh during this entertaining, light – and sometimes poignant – tale of a group of senior citizens trying to make it in a world that doesn’t seem to care.

Lloyd Pedersen and Cynthia Payo – Photo by Doug Engalla

70, GIRLS, 70 runs through December 17, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets not available 11/17, 11/18, 11/19/23 and 12/8, 12/9, and 12/10/23. The Group Rep performs at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $40 (seniors/students $35; groups of 10+ $30). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.

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