Theater: ‘Til Divorce Do Us Part’ makes musical comedy of personal tragedy

Til Divorce Do Us Part
From left: Dana Wilson, Erin Maguire and Gretchen Wylder star in “Til Divorce Do Us Part,” now on sale through May 4 (www.tildivorcethemusical.com).
Credit: Carol Rosegg

Reeling from an unexpected divorce, 34 years into the seemingly perfect marriage — because he’d “fallen in love with” a younger woman, natch — Ruthe Ponturo was struggling to compose herself. And the way she did that was by, well, composing herself — or rather, writing a series of songs about love and break-ups, based on what she was going through, with music by John Thomas Fischer. Ultimately, she even sold the jewelry that her ex had given her to fund the project, which is now onstage at DR2 Theatre in Union Square. Here’s what the witty, single-and-loving-it lyricist had to say about making this project a reality:

So how did this musical get started?

Almost three years ago now, I had been married, very happily married, for 34 years. And my husband decided that he no longer wanted to be married to me. I had always been in musical theater, taught and choreographed, and I just started — I don’t know how it happened really — I just started hearing songs in my head. I’d never written a song before [but] I started writing … about my ex-husband (though he wasn’t my ex-husband then). One of my best friends [John Thomas Fischer] said, “You should write a cabaret show about the divorce.” I asked him if he wanted to collaborate, because I am not a musician.

How did the songs start to take on a narrative structure?

There’s Dear Dottie, which is played by [Fisher]. Dear Dottie is an advice columnist for divorcees. So it’s a Dear Abby kind of a thing. Women from all over the world write him letters. The first one is from “Corn-Swaddled in Kentucky,” and that’s a Country Western song, which my ode to Loretta Lynn. And then there’s a song from “Ready in Rhinestadt,” which is about dating again — Match.com. That’s a very Marlene Dietrich kind of a song. Every song is a different genre. So that’s how we tie the show together.

Have you tried that yourself, Match.com?

No, I have not yet. I’m too busy and I’m not really interested. Even though a few people have tried — you know, “Tell me when you’re ready to be set up.” It’s like, “Never!” I took care of a man for a long time, now I’m taking care of me.

The description of the show makes it sound like it all happened very suddenly.

It was very out of the blue. I would say that we were among the poster children for a fantastic marriage. We had a great time, we traveled the world. … And I would’ve never in a million years thought I would ever be divorced. Ever. But I am. And I’m pretty happy. So I had moved on and, you know, and I wish him — whatever. [Laughs]

Do all of the stories from the play reflect your own experience in some way?

Well it started off being inspired by my stories, but so many of the stories are universal. … We’ve had so many younger gals come to the show, and at first we thought they might not relate to it. But everybody’s been dumped by somebody. It doesn’t matter if your husband is 60 or if your boyfriend’s 30. It could be the same exact scenario. And you have all kinds of the same feelings: You hurt, you want to laugh, you wish sometimes that they would get run over by a bus. Everybody has been through it, unfortunately. Unless you married your eighth grade sweetheart.

What do you hope every audience member takes away from it?

The show really is about the woman that is empowered in her life. She discovers strength in herself that she didn’t even know was there. And that’s what I think people take away from it: “I don’t have to rely on anybody to be a happy person.” … And I actually think that’s what a lot of young gals take from it. It’s not there they are going to get married and then their husband will leave them. I think they really get: “If I have a great marriage, fantastic, and if I don’t ever find that, also fantastic.” That’s what I hope they take away from it, anyway.

But it’s also primarily a comedy.

I always feel like if you can’t laugh about it, you’re just going to be crying about it. And then you mess up your mascara. That’s why I was so determined. I think that’s what got me through. It was very Scarlett O’Hara. And it is very hard sometimes. Sometimes you go into the pity party. But I literally would time it. I’d say, “OK, you can do this crybaby stuff for 10 or 15 minutes, and then you just got to get out of the house and do something. Call somebody, go to the movies, go eat french fries.”

And now you’re a lyricist!

That’s another great thing. If Tony hadn’t left me, I never would have figured it out that I could actually write songs, and how fun it was to do so. To sit with a co-writer at your piano and just bang out songs is really fun. In my case, one door closed and another opened. It’s very exciting.

Special treat for Valentine’s Day!

Anyone attending the show on Feb. 14 will go home with a goody bag, including decadent treats and a T-shirt. “Everyone should get chocolates on Valentine’s Day,” says Ruthe Ponturo, the show’s creator. Get your tickets at www.tildivorcethemusical.com.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.