Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

MONSTERS! A MIDLIFE MUSICAL MELTDOWN Mirrors and Mimics Milestone Birthday

Monsters! A Midlife Musical Meltdown

Produced by The Regent Theatre, G.P. Productions, & Image Theater; Written by Gail Phaneuf, Music & Lyrics by Ernie Lijoi & Gail Phaneuf, Directed by Jerry Bisantz & Gail Phaneuf, Choreography by Christine MacInally, Musical Direction by John Kramer; Set Design, Ken Ross; Lighting Design, Michael Clark Wonson; Sound Design, Gail Phaneuf & Nathan Leigh; Stage Manager, Marc Ewart

CAST: Cheryl McMahon (Mother), Emily Browder Melville (Samantha), Patti Hathaway (Apathy), Zachary Gregus (Body), Jennifer Fogarty (Birthday Girl), Lisa Beausoleil (Fear)

Performances through March 10th at The Regent Theatre, 7 Medford Street, Arlington, MA. Box Office 781-646-4849 or

Monsters! A Midlife Musical Meltdown invites you to The Regent Theatre to attend Samantha’s 40th birthday party where the only other guests are the demons in her life, also known as Apathy, Fear, Body, and oh, yes, her mother. Crafted on the premise featured in the opening song that “Everybody’s Got Monsters,” Samantha’s meltdown is part cautionary tale, part wake-up call, and a fully enjoyable look at a milestone in life that we all must experience in one way or another. Regardless of which side of the divide you’re standing on, Monsters! gently pokes an elbow in your ribs, as if to say, “This is what awaits you!” or “Remember?”

Following the world premiere of the musical comedy in Boston in 2006, a pair of New York City readings, and a regional production at Deertrees Theatre in Harrison, Maine, Gail Phaneuf (Playwright/Composer/Lyricist/Director) and Composer/Lyricist Ernie Lijoi have joined forces with Co-Director Jerry Bisantz of Image Theater to bring the singing and dancing monsters to life again in a re-imagined version on the Arlington stage. Monsters! is light and lively with a relatable story, musical numbers with clever lyrics and a good blend of styles, and a six-pack of endearing characters (even the demons, as they prefer to be called).

Emily Browder Melville (Samantha) is likable and sympathetic in the lead with a voice that seems totally natural for the role of the 40-year old stockbroker who is taking stock of her life and searching for an adventure that will shake things up. When Sam informs her mother (Cheryl McMahon) that she intends to quit her job and travel to Machu Picchu, the cynical response she gets dredges up all of her insecurities in the form of the three monsters, er, demons. McMahon is in fine voice and seems to enjoy her over-the-top performance as chief fear monger in her daughter’s life.

Apathy (Patti Hathaway) is the first demon to appear, playing to Sam’s natural inclination to travel the path of least resistance, especially since “you’ll eventually die” (“What’s the Point?”). She flops lazily on the couch while munching potato chips, more interested in watching reality television than helping Sam make any positive changes. Next to arrive is Fear (Lisa Beausoleil), a Kaye Ballard type, who dons a turban and peers into her Magic 8-ball to warn Sam of all the things that might befall her (“You Don’t Want to Know”) if she so much as steps out of her apartment, or answers the door, for that matter. Finally, Body (Zachary Gregus) sashays out of the closet to remind her of her body issues and poor clothing choices.

When a mysterious gift-wrapped package arrives at her door without a card, it becomes the metaphor for all of Sam’s anxieties and the Pandora’s box at the center of the story. Opening the second act, another surprise gift arrives in human form as the sexy, scantily-clad Birthday Girl (Jennifer Fogarty) bumps and grinds her way through “Happy Birthday Baby.” Although she is there as a hired stripper, the young woman happens to be a psychology student who thinks she can help Sam overcome her fears, if only she can identify them (“Phobias”). More effective than that, B.G. gets Sam to think about what she really wants to do with the second half of her life (“That’s What I Would Do”) and strive to create a balance between her desires and her demons (“You Need Us”).

Musical Direction by John Kramer and Choreography by Christine MacInally give the musical numbers vitality. The dancing is simple, but keeps everyone actively moving about the stage during the songs. The set design by Ken Ross reflects a compact Manhattan apartment, complete with a galley kitchen, an armoire in lieu of a closet, and bars on the window. Lighting Designer Michael Clark Wonson gets to have some fun with the apartment’s occasional blackouts, and sound design duties are shared by Nathan Leigh and Phaneuf. Costume design by the multi-talented Fogarty includes a garish conglomeration of articles of clothing for Fear, a comfortable nightshirt for Apathy to lounge around in, and Body sports a stylish blazer and scarf.

The overriding feelings experienced in Monsters! A Midlife Musical Meltdown are the joy and enthusiasm of the talented cast. One after another, their vocals and mannerisms surprise and delight, and they are cohesive as an ensemble, generating some beautiful harmonies mixed in with the humor. Phaneuf and Bisantz set a good pace and make sure that all of the laugh lines can be appreciated. If Phaneuf and Lijoi set out to create an all-around, feel-good musical that can be enjoyed by all ages, they have succeeded. Monsters! is a charmer and a step in the right direction for regional theater.

Photo credit: Mak Kramer Photography (Zachary Gregus, Patti Hathaway, Lisa Beausoleil, Jennifer Fogarty, Emily Browder Melville, Cheryl McMahon - in portrait)

From This Author - Nancy Grossman

From producing and starring in family holiday pageants as a child, to avid member of Broadway Across America and Show of the Month Club, Nancy has cultivated her love of the art and respect for the... (read more about this author)

Review: PIPPIN: Growing Up Is Hard To Do
August 8, 2022

The second and final production of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s 2022 season is Stephen Schwartz’s PIPPIN, originally produced on the Broadway stage in 1972 with direction and choreography by Bob Fosse, and revived/reimagined in 2013 by Diane Paulus at the American Repertory Theater before going to Broadway. Undaunted by following in those two very large sets of footsteps, RMT Artistic Director Rachel Bertone forges her own path to stage a version that leads with an enlarged heart and a healthy helping of fun and whimsy.

Review: WEST SIDE STORY: You've got to be taught
July 11, 2022

What did our critic think of WEST SIDE STORY at Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston: There's a new spring in the step of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham. Award-winning director and choreographer Rachel Bertone takes over as Artistic Director and opens the season with WEST SIDE STORY, with Dan Rodriguez by her side as music director.

BWW Review: THE CONJURORS' CLUB: Magic in Cyberspace
March 17, 2021

THE CONJURORS' CLUB is an immersive virtual experience in which the audience gets to see their fellow patrons on the zoom screen, try their hand at sleight of hand, and have a close-up view of the tricks and illusions as the magicians ply their trade live. It may be the best opportunity you could ever have to “catch” how they do it, but here’s the one spoiler in my review: don’t count on it.

BWW Review: Arlekin Players' STATE VS NATASHA BANINA: Live Theater on Zoom
May 18, 2020

Fresh on the heels of a solid showing at the virtual 38th Annual Elliot Norton Awards, where the Boston Theater Critics Association recognized their achievements during the abbreviated 2019-2020 season with ten nominations and four wins, the Arlekin Players Theatre boldly launches a new production in cyberspace. STATE VS NATASHA BANINA is a live, interactive theater art experiment which manages to engage the audience as a collective and unified body, thanks to creative direction by Igor Golyak and Darya Denisova's uncanny portrayal of the adolescent title character.

BWW Review: THE CHILDREN: Cleaning Up Our Own Mess
March 3, 2020

The Boston premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's 2018 Tony Award-nominated play THE CHILDREN at SpeakEasy Stage Company is an affecting drama, thanks to a combination of the playwright's excellence at her craft, Director Bryn Boice's focus, and the trio of Elliot Norton Award-winning actors whose portrayals constitute a collective master class. Inspired by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, THE CHILDREN puts issues of climate change, the environment, and a generation's responsibility for stewardship under an unforgiving spotlight, challenging the audience to engage in self-reflection.