WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — At the start of "Divorce Party The Musical," a frumpy, middle-aged divorcee named Linda sits on the living room floor, bawling, comforted only by her pint of Chubby Hubby ice cream.
But, recovering in record time, she is transformed by the show's conclusion into a svelte, liberated woman, celebrating her failed marriage with a clink of mimosa glasses as confetti and streamers rain down.
If only all breakups came and went so effortlessly.
No matter. The show making its debut here Friday at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts taps into the desperation a broken heart can bring, nudging audiences to laugh at their misfortune and move on with a bit of fanfare.
"Don't get mad," its motto implores. "Get everything."
Its creators speak from experience. Mark Schwartz, a veteran theater producer who is twice-divorced, saw the following he garnered with "Menopause The Musical" and was looking for another subject that would appeal to the same demographic.
He met Amy Botwinick, a chiropractor who authored "Congratulations on Your Divorce: The Road to Finding Your Happily Ever After" after her own prolonged breakup, and the two teamed up, convinced people can find humor in one of life's worst events, as they have.
"A lot of it, if you look back, it's funny what you went through," said Schwartz. "Maybe not when you're going through it."
"Divorce Party" chronicles a weekend in Linda's life, in which her sister, a cousin and a college friend sweep in to resurrect their crushed confidante. The story is strung together with song parodies of everything from "I Say a Little Prayer" to "Respect."
In a spoof of "Bohemian Rhapsody," Linda's visitors try and stir her from her funk.
"I see a little woman wallow in self-pity," they sing. "Suck it up! Suck it up!"
Some of it directly relates to divorce: the lawyers and haggling over possessions, the heartbreak, the reasons the marriage failed. But there are significant asides dealing with body grooming, sexual fulfillment and other topics that might make some blush.
"This isn't Sondheim," Schwartz said.
Though premiering in a 295-seat theater, "Divorce Party" seems destined to garner a larger following. Schwartz hopes to see it follow the model of "Menopause," which he produced, having the show travel to smaller venues around the country, find a long-standing home at a Las Vegas casino, and become an off-Broadway production once it has garnered sufficient buzz.
Much of its future may lie in the hands of about 100 producers, theater managers and the like from around the country who are expected to pass through "Divorce Party" during its six-week run here, which finishes Feb. 19.
Botwinick was aglow as she watched the first preview performance of the show this week. She was seated beside her mother, who she said heard all the tales of woe as her three-year divorce battle progressed and helped her laugh at it.
"To be able to find the humor in it was a huge turning point for me," she said.
As the show nears its end, Linda still feels anger toward her ex. "I want to disembowel him with a grapefruit spoon," she says. But her weekend reawakening has let her see the opportunities ahead.
"No longer a wife now, is my favorite part of life now," she sings atop a giant cake commemorating her divorce.