Divorce! The Musical is a delightful show currently playing at the Hudson Theatre. It traces the steady decline of the relationship between Rich Hughes (Rick Segall), a doctor, and his would-be actress wife Penny (Lowe Taylor). It begins at the altar where the couple sings “Till Death Do Us Part.” Moments later they are in couples consoling with a highly paid shrink (the very imperious and funny Gabrielle Wagner) who keeps asking them how they feel as they begin to tear each other apart. He, it seems, hasn’t given his wife a chance to follow her dreams to be an actress, while she hasn’t provided her husband with the kind of wife he wants: a cook, a housekeeper, but more important, a mother. He is too busy, and she isn’t ready to be a mother.
The warring couple next enlists the help of two divorce lawyers who couldn’t be more unalike. Laureen (again Gabrielle Wagner) is Rick’s attorney. Expensive, upscale, and a true predator, she needs to maintain and upgrade her expensive lifestyle. Lisa (the hilarious Deb Synder), Penny’s advocate, is a mess. She wants to help her client, but eventually learns to become a predator under the instruction of her new best friend Laureen. The two lawyers only make things worse. Their funny duet, “Ching Ching," says it all.
Penny ends up in a house with no furniture, and Rich ends up living in his elderly parents' basement. Both are miserable. They realize that although they had some good times, the divorce and the lawyers have driven a permanent wedge between them. All this might sound dreary and depressing, but Erin Kamler, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, has produced a very amusing script that elicits lots of identifying laughter from the audience. The music is also very melodic and catchy. Rick Sparks, the director, keeps all this moving joyfully along, and David O does his usual great job as musical director.
Divorce! The Musical is not a profound piece like Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, another musical about a problematic marriage. Still, Mr. Sparks could have spent more time delineating the characters' development. They don’t really travel much emotional distance, so you feel no loss at the end of the relationship. But the lead performances are terrific, with a great assist from Gregory Franklin in several supporting roles.
Divorce! The Musical plays at the Hudson Theatre until March 29th.