‘Something in Preserve,’ a Musical about Seniors’ Lives, Wins Plaudits
SAN DIEGO — Ryan Isaacs, Director of the Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC, was visibly excited to welcome the sold-out audience in the Garfield Theater for the Osher production of Something In Preserve, an original musical.
A large part of the audience consisted of seniors, for whom the subject matter of the musical resonated: elders at a fictitious senior residence (The Preserve), wanting to mount a musical about their lives. There was a large contingent in attendance from Osher, the Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSD, which produced the musical.
Most of the production was comedic, poking fun at the challenges of seniority, with no holds barred, from prescription drugs to diapers. There were romances, one unrequited, facing the problems of a demented spouse; and one with a happy ending.
In the hospital scene near the end, the cast member who suffered a heart attack, finally convinced the mean, curmudgeon activities director to replace him in the cast and allow the show to go on. The piece ended with the same clever lyrics and catchy tune, Let There be Light by Elliott Tarson, that opened the musical.
Tarson, a 91-year-old retired businessman from Illinois, wrote either music and lyrics or the music for 13 of the 18 songs in the show. Jeff Earnest was responsible for the music in three of the selections, Reed Sullivan wrote the lyrics and music for two and Ilene Hubbs wrote the lyrics for two, including the show-stopper, Side Effects, in which, after listing all the side effects of various drugs, concluded that the disease itself is to be preferred. Katie Keller as Jenny, delivered that number with animated gusto.
The four leads, Brian Castle as Bob, Julie Eisenhower as Carol, Paul Finley as Lou, and Jennifer Savion as Gloria were all outstanding as actors and singers. Julie Eisenhower took over her role only three weeks prior, due to Dawne Ellison needing to drop out because of health reasons. Ellison was also responsible for the choreography.
A surprising moment was when the non-responsive, wheelchair bound Merriam, sung by Sylvia Montejano, suddenly begins to sing, It Is Still Me, a poignant moment in the two-hour performance.
Although her part was not a leading role, Fran Zimmerman was impressive as Annie. One of the funniest moments was at the dance, when she, the shortest in the cast, calls to her dancing partner, the tallest, lankiest, “Come here, shorty,” and they start waltzing together.
This entertaining amateur production rose to professional levels during many moments. Its director was Courtney Flanagan, retired drama director from the Bishop’s School in La Jolla. The 17-member cast acted with great energy, their words were always audible and their amplified voices projected well. The pianist and music director was Tim McKnight, local voice coach, who has also accompanied many of the JCompany productions.
With lead articles in the San Diego Union Tribune and the La Jolla Light, and the support of family and friends of the large cast, the performance attracted the sold-out house. The cheering standing ovation at the end expressed their enthusiastic appreciation for Something In Preserve.