Sociological research project meets PPT lecture meets jukebox musical in Professor and Playwright Dorothy Marcic’s This One’s for the Girls, produced by William Franzblau at St. Luke’s Theatre. Based on Marcic’s 2002 book Respect: Women and Popular Music and its subsequent stage adaptation Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, the show’s latest updated and retitled incarnation – directed by Tamara Kangas Erickson, with musical direction by Zachary Ryan and original musical arrangements by Phil Hinton – stars Jana Robbins, Traci Bair, Aneesa Folds, and Haley Swindal in a jam-packed revue of Top 40 hits sung by and about women, tracing female history, roles, and attitudes in 20th-century America through the revealing pop lyrics.
Robbins takes the lead as the academic writer and narrator who presents her own story, along with her findings on the portrayal of women from 1900 into the new millennium, interspersing excerpts from a total of 63 familiar songs with famous figures, historical facts, and personal anecdotes, and bringing her seasoned vibrato to the music. Bair, Folds, and Swindal join her as the changing archetypes of each era, expressively vocalizing and enacting their range of emotions and situations. They shift from the laments of submissive victims and lovesick sufferers (“My Man” and “The End of the World”), the flirtations of covetous sex objects (“A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”), the sudden displacement of patriotic working women from their jobs after the war (represented by “Over There” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” – sung in perfect harmony by Bair, Folds, and Swindal), the complacent dependency of devoted housewives and mothers (“Que Sera, Sera” and “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked a Cake”), and the teenage desperation of longing for a boyfriend (“Johnny Angel,” “Bobby’s Girl,” “Where the Boys Are,” and “I Will Follow Him”), to the rage at being hurt and controlled (“Piece of My Heart” and “You Don’t Own Me”) and the ultimate feminist anthems of empowerment and breaking free (“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “I Am Woman,” “I Want To See You Be Brave,” and “I Will Survive,” all written or co-written by men, as was most of the song list, including “Respect” – a fact that wasn’t clearly addressed or highlighted in the script).
What becomes evident is that although “this one’s for the girls,” it’s overwhelmingly about the boys, in the vast majority of “women’s” lyrics – how much we need, want, and love them, how much we’ll do for them and how much we’ll tolerate from them, how angry they make us, and how determined we are to move on and to be liberated from them. Consequently, the most effective segments in the show are the parodies – most notably of the hysterical “It Must Be Him,” played with over-the-top anguish, and a pink princess telephone, by the hilarious Swindal.
The contents of the songs are supported by entertaining segments of period-style dance (animated choreography by Erickson), themed vintage accessories donned over the performers’ black cocktail dresses and business suit (costumes by Cynthia Nordstrom), and back panels and projections (scenic design by Josh Iacovelli) with images of the times and the people (both male and female) who contributed (both positively and negatively) to our socio-cultural view of women and “the soundtrack of your life.”
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without intermission.