You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


While based on the mission of the Red Hat Society -- a growing org founded in 1998 to celebrate women over 50 -- new musical revue "Hats!" is colored less in red than in bright and cheery pastels.

Dame - Rosalyn Rahn Kerins Baroness - Vickie Daignault Contessa - Nora Mae Lyng MaryAnne - Melissa Manchester Princess - Kate Young Duchess - Laura Walls Lady - Marilyn Bogetich

While based on the mission of the Red Hat Society — a growing org founded in 1998 to celebrate women over 50 — new musical revue “Hats!” is colored less in red than in bright and cheery pastels. This light theatrical entertainment of the most commercial and well-targeted type plugs into the highly relatable life experiences of the most theater-oriented demographic and looks to do for ladies’ night what “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” has done for date night. Following stints in Denver and New Orleans, the show’s extendable run in Chicago will likely be a harbinger for mid-size, long-lasting regional productions galore.

“Hats!” is the type of show where spunk and spirit rule over deep epiphanies or convincing characterizations. A patchwork of pop from a plethora of songwriters, the numbers here revolve around themes associated with women growing older, acknowledging the challenges while always accentuating a sense of victory.

Worried about sex after 50? A perfect one-liner delineating potential defeatism — “We’re at the age where food replaces sex. I’ve just had a mirror put over my kitchen table.” –is followed by an insistently triumphant, sassy song called “My Oven’s Still Hot.”

Such formulaic fun doesn’t need more than meek dramaturgy to sustain it, which is what book writers Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge provide. MaryAnne (songwriter Melissa Manchester), a woman about to turn 50 and upset about it, comes to terms with the next stage of her life by talking to a puppet named Ruby and listening to songs delivered by her mother (Marilyn Bogetich) and friends, so consciously archetypal that they bear names like Duchess and Princess.

There’s the divorced business executive figuring out how to date again (Vickie Daignault), the devoted mother and wife dealing with empty-nest syndrome (Rosalyn Rahn Kerins) and other vague but easily identifiable figures taking on life as all women do or will eventually know it.

The basic message, of course, is that life improves after 50 — “The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Tune,” as one song goes. The looming danger of growing older and losing one’s sense of identity from family or work, emotionally depicted in the Manchester-written song “Invisible,” can be remedied by putting on a red hat, sure to be noticed in a crowd, and taking on the world. The only obstacle to happiness is one’s own self-imposed limits, swept away in the song “Yes We Can,” in which women learn to play golf, do yoga and tap dance.

Director-choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett (“Swing”) invests the show with a rousing sensibility — its high spirits perpetually come through. And while Manchester isn’t a completely comfortable stage presence at the center here, a bunch of polished performers show why “Hats!” really will be welcome on the nation’s stages for some time to come: There just aren’t enough roles for women this age.

Making the biggest impression here are Laura Walls, who delivers the sexy sizzle of “My Oven’s Still Hot” with decided conviction, and Nora Mae Lyng, serving double duty as the Phyllis Diller-ish Ruby and the Carmen Miranda-ish Contessa.

Ultimately, “Hats!” really does satisfy, largely because it knows exactly what it wants to express, and it does so without the slightest sense of cynicism. This is a feel-good show that’s really about feeling good.


Royal George Theater, Chicago; 434 seats; $49.50 top

Production: A Sibling Theatricals presentation in association with BG Prods. and Hats Holdings of a musical revue in one act, inspired by the experiences of the Red Hat Society, with book by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge, songs by Doug Besterman, Susan Birkenhead, Michele Brourman, Pat Bunch, Gretchen Cryer, Anthony Dodge, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Beth Falcone, David Friedman, Kathie Lee Gifford, David Goldsmith, Carol Hall, Henry Krieger, Stephen Lawrence, Melissa Manchester, Amanda McBroom, Pam Tillis, Sharon Vaughn. Directed and choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. Music direction, Steven M. Alper, Jeremy Ramey.

Creative: Set, Narelle Sissons; costumes, Judanna Lynn; lighting, Jason Kantrowitz; sound, Ben Neafus; puppet design, Eric Wright, Emily DeCola; orchestrations, Larry Blank, Peter Myers; musical supervision, Doug Besterman; music, vocal and dance arrangements, Besterman, Alper; production stage manager, Shawn Pryby. Opened, reviewed April 29, 2007. Runs through June 10. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Dame - Rosalyn Rahn Kerins Baroness - Vickie Daignault Contessa - Nora Mae Lyng MaryAnne - Melissa Manchester Princess - Kate Young Duchess - Laura Walls Lady - Marilyn BogetichMusical numbers: "Fifty," "I Don't Want," "Cinco Pasos de la Vida," "The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Tune," "Celebrate," "My Empty Nest," "Just Like Me," "My Oven's Still Hot," "Yes We Can," "The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Tune" (reprise), "Invisible," "Fifty" (reprise), "A Big Red Hat," "Put Your Red Hat On."

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content