Arts » Theater

Free-Range Estrogen

The ladies are loose, in more ways than on



Search hard enough and you'll find a musical to fit every personality. History buffs have 1776, traditionalists have Show Boat, and boomers have Jersey Boys.

But where's the musical for grown-up gals who pause in mid-conversation to take a swipe-and-sniff test to check their own crotch odor, toss down tequila shooters in karaoke bars, and enjoy riffing on female discharge? Well, it's playing now at the 14th Street Theatre in Playhouse Square, and it's called Girls Night: The Musical.

This jukebox musical with a book — okay, a pamphlet — written by Louise Roche is focused on tickling a very specific sort of female funny bone. (Devotees of Noel Coward should run in the other direction. Now.) Its collection of mostly dated songs and some really ancient jokes gets tiresome just from the sheer familiarity of it all.

But let's face it: When a bunch of gals wants to go out and blow off some steam, there's nothing that "makes your hoo-haw tingle" like seeing five inebriated matrons dancing with a naked, plastic blow-up guy sporting a foot-and-a-half-long erect penis.

As directed by Sonya Carter, the overlong dialogue scenes drag and the dance numbers tend to be repetitive — when they're not just boring. Hey, if you wanted Mamet or Fosse, you never should have walked through this door.

It's all structured around Sharon, a woman who died 22 years earlier after falling off a moped. Now an angel, complete with wings, she narrates the proceedings as her four gal pals get together and talk about sex, hygiene, and sagging tits.

There are two sisters: nerdy schoolteacher Kate and party animal Carol, along with the sharp-tongued princess Liza and the plump chatterbox Anita. They gossip and snipe and then break into song, such as their group's anthem "Young Hearts Run Free" and the predictable golden oldies: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "I'm Every Woman," etc. Hey, if you wanted "Something to Do With Spring," you should have started running when you were warned.

As the linchpin Sharon, Amy Pawlukiewicz (a local performer, as are all the cast members) has an easy casualness on stage that suits her role. And although her expositions of her girlfriends' backgrounds are mind-numbingly dull, she manages to toss them off with good humor.

Even though her voice tends to get a bit shrill in places, Kate Leigh Michalski as Anita has the best pipes in the troupe. And she can even be cute when she's in the middle of a high-speed rant about her hubby or the latest gross thing that came out of her body.

The grind Kate is played by Ginny Brazier, who spends most of the play reeling across the stage when she isn't lying down with the blow-up guy. Brazier badly butchers Janis Ian's "At 17," although that may have been intentional. Hey, if you wanted clear intentions, you should have gone to The Sound of Music.

Leslie Andrews essays Liza and gets a lot of volume out of her slight frame, but she has a hard time sustaining the notes at the ends of songs. And as Carol, Susan M. Wagner has the perfect look — you've seen this exact frowzy dame sitting at the end of countless bars. But she has a very small sweet spot in her singing voice, which works pretty well on "Don't Cry Out Loud" and comes up short in other songs.

The preshow warm-up is a six-foot-five guy in drag, with a voice like Ernest Borgnine, who gets most of the audience dancing in the aisles — which is why you go to this kind of show in the first place. (That's why the extended dialogue scenes seem so odd; you can almost feel the crowd quivering in their desire to hear the uptempo songs.)

I'll spare you the supposedly tender-hearted conclusion to this bizarre concoction, which makes little sense when you see it and even less after you think about it. Suffice to say that if you're up for a weirdly non-ironic disco version of "I Am What I Am," vibrator jokes, and a blonde fall used as a muff wig, then your ship has come in.

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