The story is simple, and as Goldman insists, “It’s 98% true and authentic.” Goldman was a self-proclaimed “bad girl.” In her early 20s, she married screenwriter and playwright James Goldman, who wrote the book for the show “Follies,” as well as the play and later the movie “The Lion in Winter.” He was 26 years her senior and left her a widow in her 50s. Having been a chef, an interior designer, a theatrical developer and a boxer, Goldman has led a very interesting life. During her discussion with the audience after the performance I attended, Goldman said — with a Cheshire grin on her face — that she was “dating six men.”
“Curvy Widow” thankfully does not have a predictable ending and stays true to Goldman’s earthy approach to life. “Do whatever you can; everyone has their little secret lives. I make it okay to come out,” she says. Goldman’s candor in the show and in the Q & A afterwards are indeed compelling. No spoilers here — but the show has unexpected twists and turns as Goldman stumbles through the dating scene. “Curvy Widow” manages to be poignant, gritty and entertaining — all in 85 minutes.
Says Goldman, “We’re told by our mothers once a woman is past a certain age, a woman is not attractive.” The title “Curvy Widow” refers to the “handle” Bobby chooses in the show for her on-line dating account, after her psychologist tells her “to get laid.” The show is a refreshing, edgy exploration of women’s sexuality.
In one scene, we witness Bobby, played by Tony-nominated Nancy Opel, trying to purchase a box of condoms. She can barely get the words out to tell the clerk what she wants, but eventually, she finds her voice. Part of the pleasure of this show is taking the journey with Bobby as she discovers life after widowhood.
“Women find the show moving. The reason it’s working is that it’s authentic; people feel I’m telling their story,” says Goldman. Indeed, during the Q & A, one audience member said, “I have stories for you, Bobby; I experienced everything you dramatized. Terrific.”
“People feel they know me through the show and walk away with a full experience,” added Goldman.
Ken Land deftly plays Goldman’s deceased husband, and director Peter Flynn handles the material in “Curvy Widow” with light-hearted elegance and excellent pacing. Some of the finest moments of this production were when Goldman’s dead husband visits her, taunting her about bad dates and admonishing her not to date anymore.
Drew Brody’s original music perfectly complements the story, as does Rob Bissinger’s scenic design. Nancy Opel is a pleasure to watch, as she moves gracefully from lost widow to novice and sometimes-rejected dater. Supporting cast member Andrea Bianchi, who plays Goldman’s friend Caroline, brightens the stage in every scene she is in with accomplished singing and dancing.
“Do you send all your widowed clients into slutdom?” Bobby asks her psychiatrist, played with grace by Alan Muraoka, when he encourages her to find a companion. With songs like “Gynecologist Tango” and “Lying on the Bathroom Floor,” “Curvy Widow” manages to be light-hearted and edgy, a show that delves in a fresh way into female sexuality, post-menopausal painful sex, the trials and tribulations of romance and the perennial power struggles between men and women.
With her contagious bravado and moxie that shines through in “Curvy Widow,” Goldman told me before the show, “You’re going to have a fabulous time.” And, I did.
“Curvy Widow” runs from August through December at the Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd Street. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit the show’s website.