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A CurtainUp Review
Don't Leave It All to Your Children!

If you don't count all the aggravating times that I knew, all of the problems my kids put me through; if you don't count all the times I cried the nights when I almost died . . .hey, I've had a wonderful life. —"I've Had A Wonderful Life" by Saul Ilson.
Don't Leave It All to Your Children
(top to bottom): Steve Rossi, Marcia Rodd, Ronnie Shell & BarbaraMinkus in Don't Leave It All to Your Children
(Photo: Albert Hirshon)
"Growing old ain't for sissies. Life's a bitch, then you die. In dog years, I'm dead." These wry observations are popular on coffee mugs and greeting cards. Growing old inspires a lot of quotations, many funny but not sunny, not black but definitely gray, and hinting that laughter is the best medicine.

That is the feeling behind writer/director/creator Saul Ilson's musical revue, Don't Leave It All to Your Children!, delivering tunes and anecdotes about baby boomers coping with the golden years. Show biz vets, Barbara Minkus ( Picon Pie ), Marcia Rodd ( The Last of the Red Hot Lovers ), Ronnie Schell ( Gomer Pyle ), and singer/comedian Steve Rossi (Allen and Rossi) kvetchiwith a smile, shrug off the troubles and celebrate the triumphs of senior life.

Ilson decided long ago that the key to survival is finding the laughs and enjoying yourself. In his 40-plus years in television, he worked with comedians like Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Bea Arthur and was writer on the groundbreaking TV series, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Several years ago, Ilson created a play Senior Class inspired by his stay in Branson, Missouri, where he saw that seniors seemed to be having a good time and living a vibrant life. As he puts it, "I decided to tap into this audience that TV no longer wants.".

Senior Class had a healthy run at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs, California. When hopes turned toward Broadway, Ilson updated the show, added new jokes and songs, changed the title to Don't Leave It All to Your Children! , and here it is at the Actors Temple, just down the block from the Great White Way. The question is, will it grab the New York audience?

Four enthusiastic performers deliver the talk and tunes with snappy charm and good-natured acceptance of that inevitable outcome. "Consider the alternative" is the message. Barbara Minkus and Marcia Rodd look and sound terrific. Rodd delivers her lusty advice "Don't be the type to sit and ferment" in "March In The Parade" Minkus, lean, toned and vocally nuanced, is touching with "I Love You" and "Looking Back". Minkus later leads the ensemble to firmly stress the value of holding on to "Old Memories" and young hopes.

Steve Rossi, who had recorded a major hit, "More", has a major comedy moment here recalling some Ed Sullivan gaffes he heard during his 44 Allen and Rossi appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show . Ronnie Schell showd adept timing with stand-up one-liners and set the tone with his opening song, "You're A Boomer."

Most of the material, unfortunately, is not designed for 60-somethings but for those entrenched seniors quite a bit further along into the Medicare years. This is the downside of this production. While the point of view indicated is of protests and flower power, most of the jokes hark back to Eisenhower and Milton Berle. Ignored is the fact that the Woodstock generation is busy buying tickets for Hair and Rock of Ages. This production is heavy with old-hat quips of wives disinterested in sex, men who are interested but the parts no longer work, the obvious parts of Dolly Parton, and aging. "Age is just a number. . .Mine is unlisted" is one example. Ilson's song lyrics are slickly put together but repetitious and the melodies too often depend on that old soft-shoe.

The audience at the performance I attendedwas not responsive. Clearly, they had heard it all before— long before. A good dusting of the fading yuks and rejuvenating the Guy Lombardo references would go far in sharpening this show because Ilson's intent is valuable. The breezy performers obviously accept their age, celebrate their spirit, and embrace the advice of "Don't Leave It All To Your Children. Have A Good Time. . .And don't defend it".

Don't Leave It All to Your Children!
Written and Directed by Saul Ilson
Cast: Barbara Minkus, Marcia Rodd, Steve Rossi, Ronnie Schell
Set Design: Josh Iacovelli
Musical Staging: Rudy Tronto.
Musical Direction: John Bell
Wardrobe: Thom Carlsen
Lighting Design: Graham Kindred
Sound Design: Luca Pierucci
Original Music: Saul Ilson
Stage Manager: Jana Llynn
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
The Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street (west of 8th Avenue)
Tickets at $56.50 and $31.50 (212) 239-6200.
Performances: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 PM, Saturday evenings at 8 PM. On Wednesday, May 20th, there will be an 8 PM performance in place of the 3 PM matinee. Appropriate for ages 4+.
Performances begin 5/06/09; opening 5/20/09. Open run.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 5/16/09
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