Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

A GOOD DAY A New Musical About Alzheimer's Highlighted in Concert Performance

A Good Day was inspired by Eric Sirota's experience with his father, who had suffered from Alzheimer's.

A GOOD DAY A New Musical About Alzheimer's Highlighted in Concert Performance

On a beautiful summer afternoon, Saturday July 24, there was an outdoor musical theatre concert, "A Good Day - Songs from Musicals by Eric B. Sirota" at Ellsworth Park in Union City, New Jersey.

A Good Day is also the name of Sirota's newest original musical in development. A Good Day is a story of undying love. A widowed artist finds himself brought into the life of his childhood girlfriend, his first love, his muse, who spurned him over 50 years ago, and who now has Alzheimer's.

The outdoor concert was a presentation of the Park Theatre (the historic 1300-seat performing arts center in Union City) and Write Act Repertory (John Lant & Tamra Pica), in association with the City of Union City and the Greater New Jersey chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. The concert, featuring A Good Day included songs from three of Sirota's other musicals: Frankenstein, Your Name on My Lips, and Go, My Child.

A Good Day was inspired by Eric Sirota's experience with his father, who had suffered from Alzheimer's. In his last years the only way to reach him was through music, singing songs he knew earlier in life. Sirota wanted to write a musical touching on the power of music to rekindle memory and awaken the mind. But that is neither a plot nor characters. When making a condolence call to a friend who lost her mother to Alzheimer's, he learned that she had been a cellist. In her last years when all other facilities were gone, if she heard cello music, she would hold and move her hands and fingers in perfect form, as though she was playing that music. He knew immediately who his characters would be. He had already created them in his earlier musical, Your Name on My Lips, which ends when they are only about 20 years old. The female character in Your Name on My Lips had been a cello player in her youth. While he makes use of these characters and their backstory, he wrote A Good Day to be entirely self-contained. He describes it as "Music, memory, an old flame and Alzheimer's - You just hope for a good day." And while the subject matter is serious, the musical ends on a high note. (www.AGoodDayMusical.com)

Sirota wrote A Good Day in 2019, after receiving a Denis Diderot Artists-in-Residence grant to attend the Chateau Orquevaux residency in France. Revising drafts over the rest of that year, he had a complete script and score, as the pandemic hit. Having demo recordings of the songs done remotely early in the pandemic, he then had a series of virtual readings and workshops over the course of the following year. The July 24th concert was the first live performance of the material, and Sirota is hoping to gain interest in the work and further opportunities to develop it.

The story of A Good Day was described by the narrator at the concert: "Sam an artist, is a widower after losing his wife of 50 years. After a year, Sam still has not regained his will to paint, or do much of anything. When Suzanna was a child, she instilled the love of music in her friend. But she gave up the cello and music, and gave up that young man who loved her. She moved on with her life and eventually he did too. -- Now, 50 years later, Suzanna has Alzheimer's, and her children would do anything to hear their mother speak their names. While there is as yet, no cure, we hope for more good days than bad, and the show's uplifting ending occurs when she calls her children by their names, on what turns out to be A Good Day."

Another theme that runs throughout the show is the importance of arts education, something close to the writer's heart. The music of the show is characteristic of Sirota's work, using his classical inspiration melded with contemporary musical theatre styles, as it serves the story and characters.

The final segment of the July 24th concert featuring "A Good Day" began with the show's opening number Sundown. Sundowning is a condition often occurring in Alzheimer's patients which makes the late day and night particularly difficult. But more than that, the song addresses all of the characters' pains, losses and needs. With Alzheimer's, it is not only the patient who is affected. It takes a major toll on their family/caregivers.

The story starts after Suzanna's husband has passed away, and her son must move her into a nursing home. Going through old boxes in their parents' house, hoping to find things to spur her memories, Suzanna's children find a painting of their mother at age twelve, holding a cello. They never knew about her musical background; and growing up, music had never been part of their family life. The portrait is signed by Sam. They locate and visit him hoping to find anything to connect to her past. Upon seeing the portrait he had painted as a young teenager, Sam initially tells them he didn't know her well. But he did. In the song Ghost or an Angel, Sam asks himself if confronting this relationship from his past will take him out of his darkness or open old wounds.

Some of the other songs included in the concert were: Oh, Mama, in which Suzanna's middle-aged children express the pain caused by their mother not even knowing their names; Feel, in which Sam helps Suzanna's daughter try her hand at painting; Love Renewed, a rapturous duet as Suzanna's daughter and her somewhat estranged husband are reunited; Evening Star (on a mostly cloudy night); Dreams We Left Behind ; Remember; and the finale, the title song A Good Day, which is a joyful and hopeful turnaround on Sundown.

The concert was included as one of the Alzheimer's Association's 2021 "Longest Day" activities. The Longest Day is the day with the most light - the summer solstice. To shine a light on Alzheimer's and dementia, people from across the world fight the darkness of Alzheimer's by raising funds and awareness through an activity of their choice. Events need not take place exactly on the solstice. (Longest Day website)

The July 24th concert began with a welcome from Liliana Barrera representing Union City, and John Lant of Write Act Repertory. The musical director/pianist was Kent Kim, and the cast consisted of Dylan Bivings, Daniel Robert Burns, Jay Chacon, Lauren Coccaro, Grace Juhe, Andrew Leonforte, Rebecca Monk & Devyn White. Descriptions of Sirota's four musicals featured in the program were given in English and Spanish by narrator Isaiah Delgado.

The program began with songs from Sirota's Frankenstein, which had been playing Off-Broadway at St. Luke's Theatre for three years, prior to the pandemic, and featured some performers from that production. Published in 1818, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein recently celebrated its bicentennial year, and Sirota's musical honors its source material as contemporary work of musical theatre. It is best described as a sweeping romantic musical about the human need for love and companionship. Having lost his mother at a young age, Victor Frankenstein seeks to end human mortality and arrogantly enters territory beyond his control. While he enjoys unconditional love from Elizabeth, he grants none to his creation. It is slated for production this coming season at the Park Theatre in Union City, and will include matinee performances for schools. The songs performed were Once in a Dream; Here, in my Heart; God in Heaven; I Write by Candlelight; Why (have you created me); and Day of Wrath, where the Creature entreats his creator to make him a mate. (www.TheFrankensteinMusical.com)

The program continued by highlighting songs from Sirota's Go, My Child, a musical about leaving one's parents, infertility, and the search for truth, set against a background of xenophobia: 3000 years ago, but particularly relevant today where "fear of the other" easily translates into hatred. Set in ancient Mesopotamia, it is an original account of the "untold story" of the early lives of biblical Abraham and Sarah. The first act is set in the xenophobic metropolis of Ur, controlled by the harsh priests; and the second act is set in the welcoming town of Charan. Go, My Child had staged readings in New York at the Actor's Temple Theatre. There are plans for eventual production at the Park Theatre (with local young performers making up the chorus and dancers, making it a production of "biblical proportions"). The songs performed were Party at the Ziggurat; Tifania's Lament; Stranger from Damascus; Sarai's Soliloquy; and Bringer of Life. (www.EricSirota.com/go-my-child)

After an intermission came excerpts from Your Name on My Lips, Sirota's original musical about following one's passion with obsession and commitment. It has already had two productions in New York, at Theater for the New City. Your Name on My Lips, is about Sam, a self-taught painter, who struggles to get into an art institute; while fighting to hold onto Suzanna, the love of his life, as the materialistic world tugs at her. A childhood friendship turns to romance. Suzanna was a cellist, with dreams of a lifetime of art and music joined in one key. But college for Suzanna means change. The songs performed were: A Love Like That; Farewell, My Paintings; He Will Paint Me; Magnetic Moment; and The Night is Burning. (www.YourNameOnMyLips.com)

The concluding portion of the concert was the premier performance of nine songs from A Good Day, described above and concluding with the title song "A Good Day" which can be seen here on YouTube.

Eric B. Sirota is a composer/playwright, having written 5 full-length musicals which have appeared on New York stage. Frankenstein played Off-Broadway for 3 years and Your Name on My Lips had two productions at Theater for the New City, where Sirota was a resident playwright. He studied musical composition at Brown University and is also a highly published research physicist with a PhD from Harvard. He was a recipient of the Denis Diderot Artists-in-Residence grant to attend the Chateau Orquevaux residency. As composer, he wrote the score for A Day at the White House, which was recently recorded as a radio podcast. Other works include The Flemington Oratorio and a dramatic musical setting of Unetane Tokef. He and his wife, artist Cara London, are also part of the group of dedicated volunteers and arts professionals who have worked to save and restore the Park Theatre.



Related Articles View More New Jersey Stories


More Hot Stories For You