What is A Good Day all about?
A Good Day is a musical with the tagline: “Music, memory, an old flame and Alzheimer’s.” It is about a widowed artist thrust back into the life of his childhood girlfriend, his first love, his muse, a musician who spurned him over 50 years ago, and who now suffers from Alzheimer’s.
It’s my fifth full-length musical, which I wrote in 2019 while attending the Chateau Orquevaux artist residency and while my musical, Frankenstein was in its third year playing off Broadway.
Sam, an artist and widower after losing his wife of almost 50 years, still has not regained his will to paint, or do much of anything.
As a child, Suzanna (now 72), instilled the love of music in her friend (Sam). 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.
After Suzanna’s husband suddenly dies, Suzanna deteriorates rapidly. Looking for anything to spur their mother’s memory, Suzanna’s children find a portrait of Suzanna painted by Sam when they were very young and decide to locate him.
Sam begins to visit Suzanna, and with these visits he regains his purpose in life. While there is as yet no cure, we hope for more good days than bad, and the show’s uplifting ending occurs on what turns out to be . . . A Good Day.
The musical includes both classically inspired and contemporary musical theater styles, as it serves the story.
What was the inspiration for A Good Day?
My father, Milton Sirota, a psychiatrist who passed away in 2017, suffered from Alzheimer’s. In his last years, the only way to reach him was through music, singing songs he knew earlier in life. I decided I 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, I learned her mom had been a cellist, and when they played recordings for her, she would position her hands as if holding her cello and ‘play’ in perfect form, bringing moments of lucidity and joy. I knew immediately what the story would be. I had already created characters and a backstory! My earlier musical, Your Name on My Lips, ends when two young people, an artist and cellist, go their separate ways when they are about 20 years old. I care deeply about these characters; the emotional core of that musical was based on my own experience as a youth.
Setting those characters 50 years later, I wrote A Good Day – not as a sequel, but a wholly self-contained work.
How has working on a dementia project changed you?
I feel that working on this, especially reaching out to the Alzheimer’s care and advocacy communities, has made me much more aware of dementia, beyond the specifics of my father, and made me more of an advocate for the needs of the care and research communities.
How has A Good Day been received?
A Good Day has not yet been produced. Having finished the first draft right before the pandemic, its development first proceeded with virtual readings, dramaturgy and workshops, and those familiar with Alzheimer’s found my portrayal spot on.
An outdoor concert in the summer of 2021, featuring songs from four of my musicals, highlighting 9 songs from A Good Day, as part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day events, was very well received.
In December, we finally had a live staged reading at the Actors Temple Theatre in New York City, and the audience found the work powerful and compelling. The Shawnee Playhouse selected A Good Day as the winner of their new works series, and will be producing it in September!
This work is dedicated to: My father, Milton Sirota, and everyone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s.