"Charissa Bertels is nothing short of phenomenal. Her one-woman show, “My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend,” is the spectacular season ender for Merrimack Repertory Theatre. And it’s not hyperbole to call it a tour de force of multidisciplinary theatrical talent and awe-inspiring work by this amazing actor.
Through original songs that vary from rousing to heart-wrenching, Bertels tells her tale with humor and every emotion she can wring out of herself – and us...I watched the audience while I watched the show, and they already loved her by the time Bertels had powered through the rousing intro song, “By The Numbers.” She is a “soprano belter,” to be sure. But it’s not just showy vocal theatrics; there is nuance and feeling behind every note. The evocative lyrics will get you, too. Yes, you’ll likely cry during “What a View” and “Fifth Grade Feeling,” as I did (and most folks around me). But it’s so worth it.
What puts this show over the top and makes it not just a terrific exhibition of Broadway-style talent – singing, dancing, acting, a tap number, piano playing and even singing in German – is Bertels’ incredible portrayal of Milton. She bounces back and forth between talking to us as herself, and sprinkling in conversations as Milton, in a hilarious, astounding way. There is even a head-shakingly amazing duet she does – with herself. I couldn’t even get annoyed when after the thunderous applause died down, an audience member exclaimed in the silence, “She is excellent!” Because ... wow, she really is.
Bertels fires on all cylinders; the fact that this is her true story and an original book is yet another layer of the talent encompassed in it. This is a master class in how to put on a show worth seeing. But there is surely no one who wouldn’t enjoy this absolutely lovely story of a beautiful friendship, presented with humor, love and Broadway-level entertainment."