Life begins at 65 for Elaine, Louise, Myra and Nilda, aka The Broads, and for those of you out there who’ve never heard of them, just ask any of their fellow residents at South Florida’s Millennium Manor. They’ll tell that you the Broads are the next best thing to Metamucil, and that when the time rolls around for Millennium Manor’s annual variety show, it’s by far the Senior Citizen event of the year.

Joe Symon and Jennie Fahn’s original musical, Broads! The Musical, imagines one of those glitzy extravaganzas, and audiences at the El Portal Studio Theater are the invited guests.

“We are four beautiful, not your average dutiful, four beautiful broads,” harmonize the fabulous foursome as they open the yearly event. “I haven’t been this excited since they reinstated the senior discount at the House Of Pancakes,” exclaims one of them, and Puerto Rican Nilda agrees.  “I love to get on stage and get the clap,” she exults, and goes on to rave about her favorite magician David Copperfield.  “He puts people under the knife and cuts them in half,” she explains. That’s nothing special for nipped-and-tucked Louise. “My doctor puts me under the knife and cuts my age in half,” she quips, and later adds, “I’m so synthetic, I’m flammable.”

And so it goes in Fahn’s shtick-heavy but undeniably funny book. Symon’s songs too spotlight just about every geriatric stereotype in the book, but just as stereotypes are based on truth, so there is truth in the songwriter’s amusing ditties.

“A Day At Millennium Manor” has the gals singing about their favorite pastimes:  shuffleboard, bingo, and water aerobics. “Mi Marido” has the gold-laméd duo of Nilda and Louise comparing husbands. Meanwhile, back in their dressing room, sisters Elaine and Myra engage in a thumb wrestling competition, then duet the nostalgic “Just Yesterday We Were Girls.”  

Back onstage, Myra does a little PR for her adult son Benji (“a composer-songwriter and such a nice boy” say the business cards she hands out to audience members), and in the lovely ballad “Something Unexpected,” she sings about the child who will never have a traditional marriage but no matter.  “He writes his songs,” sings his proud mom.  “His friend we adore.  His unexpected things turn out fine, cause Benji’s still mine.”

In the torchy, sexy “Lift It Up,” Louise belts out a tribute to her other best friends—Collagen and Botox.  “Just fill up your cup and lift it up,” she sings, feather boa in hand. “Your man won’t mind when you leave your fat behind.”  (Let that last one sink in.)

It’s at about this point that Louise drops a bombshell, one that may well put an end to The Broads, but not, thank goodness, to tonight’s performance.

“Soup To Nuts,” a hymn to the Early Bird special, has all four Broads, Blue Plate Specials in hand, singing “I want my meal served soup to nuts,” and all for the grand total of $6.99.  “The Social Security Rag” features Elaine, Louise, Myra and Nilda in their zebra print skirts and red parasols complaining to the President about diminishing returns for retirement-age Baby Boomers. “The government sucks, and it’s run by lame ducks,” they protest in song.  Elaine gets her own bump-and-grind showstopper with “I Say It Like It Is.”   (“I don’t mince words.  A beauty mark is a wart.”) On a more somber note, The Broads plan their farewell performances.  (“What I pray for my last day is that I’m doing it in the hay.”)  “Side Effects” has our gals shaking not their maracas, but the next best thing, their pill bottles, as they go on about their ills (blood pressure, reflux, and cholesterol) and the pesky side effects their meds can cause.

Ultimately though, The Broads are all about friendship, and that means friendship forever.  In the grand finale, decked out in spangled tops and glittery bowler hats, Elaine, Louise, Myra and Nilda sing what has to be their theme song, “It Ain’t Over,” because for these four Broads, the fat lady has yet to sing.

Jules Aaron directs with affection and grace, bringing out the best in his four stellar performers, and if the gals find themselves the butt of jokes, these ladies still have life aplenty inside them, and can serve as inspirations to audience members half their age.

Ivonne Coll’s credentials for playing Nilda go back to being crowned Miss Puerto Rico 1967 in the Miss Universe Pageant, and she is a sizzling firecracker in the role. Leslie Easterbrook, best known for her role as Sgt. Callahan in all six Police Academy movies, is glamorous (and a great sport) as Louise.  June Gable, Joey’s agent Estelle in Friends, is a Broadway Baby personified as Elaine.  Stage vet Barbara Niles completes the cast with charm and good humor as Myra.  All four Broads are the very definition of triple-threats, and Kay Cole’s snazzy choreography and the uncredited musical direction showcase their song and dance credentials.

The voices of show biz legends Kaye Ballard and Shecky Greene introduce each act with Borscht Belt-ready repartee.

Prolific scenic designer Stephen Gifford’s set has just the right South Florida feel, and when the curtains part, takes us from stage to dressing room.  J. Kent Inasy’s lighting design and Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound design are both excellent. Shon LeBlanc’s imaginative costuming adds to the show’s pizzazz (though I couldn’t figure out what those flower baskets are doing on The Broads’ hips in “Soup To Nuts”). Backing up The Broads is their terrific off-stage band made up of Brian Murphy, John Harvey, and Jeff Takiguchi.

With luck and positive word-of-mouth, Broads! The Musical could turn out to be the El Portal’s biggest hit since The Marvelous Wonderettes. Performed with panache and pizazze, it’s easily the best show in town for the over-65 set, and for Golden Girls fans of any age.

El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
February 21, 2010
                                                                               Photos: Michael Lamont

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