Girls Night: The Musical, an off-Broadway show, described as Desperate Housewives meet Mamma Mia with Sex in the City bawdiness, made its Washington, DC premiere at the Warner Theatre Friday night, transporting the mostly female, middle-aged audience members, some sporting flashing light-encrusted tiaras and hot pink feathered boas, back decades in time.
Written by Louise Roche and directed by Sonya Carter, Girls Night: The Musical embarks on a boisterous “pre-bachelorette” celebration that follows five friends, each with very distinctive personalities, who vent about the stresses of life, love and work, and reminisce about their teenage years —Carol (Shelby Garrett), the perpetual party girl; Anita (Alissa Stahler) who is uncensored and blunt, Liza (Erin Baltsar) stuck in marital and emotional downfall; Kate (Alex Tripp), the prissy designated driver; and Sharon (Dina Desmone), the “not-so-nice” nice girl—all in their 30s and 40s during a wild and outrageous girls night out at a karaoke bar. Friends since their teens, they have all had their fair share of heartache and tragedy, joy and success.
Our hostess and narrator is sassy and vivacious, pigtailed Sharon who appears wearing all white, along with a set of bedazzled angel wings, and introduces the audience to her former life and friends, while priming the audience to freely interact with her throughout the show. Sharon explains the reason for her Halloween-ready outfit: she is dead – killed 20 years before when she feel off a moped at 17. The others cannot see or hear her, but that does not stop Sharon from missing a beat, accompanying her friends, who are at the karaoke bar to mark the engagement of Sharon’s daughter.
As may be expected in a five-membered, musical comedy ensemble, Sharon’s friends are a motley crew of characters: Liza (Erin Baltsar) is a bawdy, sharp-tongued and newly rich housewife, but she has sexual issues – things are not so good with her uninspiring spouse. Carol (Shelby Garrett), a twice-divorced party girl, who spends much of her time dousing her intimate parts with some sort of aerosol spray, struggles with a few rattling skeletons in her closet. Anita (Alissa Stahler) is quirky, fun and, perhaps, a little bipolar, yo-yo’ing between manic flights of fancy and level-headed advice. Kate (Alex Tripp), Carol’s prim-and-proper younger sister, is a buttoned-up, cardigan-clad school teacher with a secret wild side.
The dialogue and storyline serve to prop up a series of karaoke numbers, incorporating high-energy songs and entertaining dance moves. On the whole, the cast has noteworthy singing ability, each character has an opportunity to display their strong vocal range and bravura in rotating solo parts. Their diverse personalities and back stories make them relatable on some level, so there is a little something for everyone in this free-spirited show.
Lighthearted and touching, and at times, down right outrageous and raunchy complete with a prominently displayed, full frontal male blow up doll and lipstick vibrator as featured props, each character’s problems, passions and squabbles serve as an impetus to sing some of the most famous female empowerment tunes of the last four decades.
Among the 14 highlighted songs, all of which are recognizable, including well-known pop anthems, such as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “It’s Raining Men”; and ‘70s hits like “I Will Survive,” “Lady Marmalade,” and “We are Family”, prompted many patrons to bop in and out of their seats, as Sharon ran up and down the aisles throughout the theater, rallying revelers to rise up to cheer, sing and dance along with her.
A couple of memorable moments of the show were Alex Tripp’s performance as Kate – stalwart and steadfast, Tripp is reminiscent of Molly Shannon’s commitment to her nerdy character Mary Katherine Gallagher, who is full of confidence despite herself; and Alissa Stahler’s rendering of Anita is possibly the most interesting character in the show — at the very least, she does not come across as much as a female stereotype.
A “tell-it-like-it-is” look at the past, present and future lives of a group of long-time female friends, Girls Night: The Musical audiences may recognize a bit of themselves and/or someone that they know in one form or another. From the scantily-clad, socially awkward, loud but lovable friend, to the annoying sister that does not know what she is doing on the dance floor, but thinks she does, to the super-proper and happily married woman, to the bored-in-marriage beauty, everyone is well-represented and celebrated loudly and proudly.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
Girls Night: The Musical played for one night only on Friday, October 17, 2014 at The Warner Theatre – 513 13th Street, in Washington, DC. For tickets to all future events at The Warner Theatre, purchase them online.