BWW Review: THOSE GIRLS SING THE BOYS (VOL. 1) Rocks at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
Do you guys remember the girl group? Well, it's time for The Woman Group and they are here. Actually, they've been around for the last three years, singing in the cabaret rooms and nightclubs of New York City, and it's time for them to go global. THOSE GIRLS have reached a point where their brand is primed and ready to launch. In a time when re-invention is not just a festive concept to apply one's art, it is de rigueur, THOSE GIRLS have taken the revisitation of songs both famous and popular to a new level by not just limiting themselves to one genre of music. THOSE GIRLS sing pop music and rock, jazz and country (and if Wendy Russell can get her in there, a little Streisand). These are women with strong individual personalities that match their unique sounds as soloists, and when you bring them together as a whole you get a fusion that's as delightful as it is original. No, the girl group as a classification is not original, but what one takes with the style and does with it is what makes it original, and THOSE GIRLS are original - and it starts with the embracing of the women as individuals because the beauty of entities coming together to form a whole is a remarkable thing.
And THOSE GIRLS are remarkable.
Eve Eaton, Rachel Hanser, Karen Mack, and Wendy Russell have been doing their show THOSE GIRLS Sing The Boys (Vol.1) for a while now. Irritatingly, scheduling conflicts prevented this writer from seeing the show, though I have caught the quartet in group shows from time to time, usually shows benefiting a charity of some sort, and I vowed I would see their act as soon as a time could be found that was mutually schedule-able. Finally, finally, finally, on Friday night I was able to land at The Laurie Beechman to see THOSE GIRLS Sing The Boys (Vol. 1); and while hearing these women sing in group shows is a joy, seeing them with their entire band is a thrill. Equally showcased throughout the evening are (in descending alphabetical order) guitarist Ted Stafford, bassist Matt Scharfglass and percussionist Don Kelly (I try to always save Don Kelly for last because his beats rock my world) and each of these gentlemen are at the top of their game - were they to play alone, this writer would plunk down the bread and take a seat. The fearless leader of this entire troupe of scallywags is pianist Steven Ray Watkins, he of the breathtaking arrangements and lightning-fast fingers. With these four brother-figures backing them up, the grown women of THOSE GIRLS can relax, let go and rock out for a little over an hour - one of the fastest hours ever to be experienced. I was actually in shock when Karen Mack announced that it was "that time again" because it felt like only thirty minutes had passed since they started the show, but it had, indeed, been an hour. Bummer. But that hour watching these eight musicians, LISTENING to these eight wonders, was an hour so incredible that the moment I got home I reserved seats to see their next show on December 2nd. It's true, if you come, you will see me there in my indoor sunglasses, but no pad, no pen, no camera: this time I'm going as a fan and I will need my hands so I can clap and cheer. Loudly.
In THOSE GIRLS Sing The Boys (Vol. 1), you can look forward to music made famous by male vocalists and singing groups from five different decades. From Dean Martin to Bruno Mars, you will be entertained by the boys in the band you have loved all your life - but don't expect to hear the original Ray Charles arrangement of "Hallelujah I Love Her So" or Elvis' version of "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" because these women are all about reinvention. Maybe that is because these women have lived long enough to have to reinvent themselves at times. I don't know any of these women personally (though full disclosure insists that I confess I was seated with Karen Mack at a show once and we chatted about baking cookies) so I don't know if they are married, mothers, actresses... there is nothing personal about my knowledge of the women of THOSE GIRLS. All I know is what I hear and what I see, and what I see here are women who are at an age where most people have had to make changes in their lives, in their perceptions, in their dreams, in their goals. In life, we have to hit the reset button and recreate who we are, who we want to be, and it takes a someone (or several someones) to inspire music so clearly informed by life experience, and a desire to create something new, something of your own. That's what makes THOSE GIRLS special. The songs they sing may have been penned by someone else, but the stories they bring to the songs are personal, they are new, they are individual. How else could cool-chick Rachel Hanser of the voice as bright as the sun delve so deeply into "Time in a Bottle" that you blush from feeling like you read a page in her diary? And when laid-back Wendy Russell confesses that she is less familiar with the music being sung than that of The Greatest Star, you have to admire her for stepping into her best Grace Slick and wailing rock and roll with a voice that rings out like the call of an eagle in flight. Meanwhile, animated Eve Eaton clearly grooves on this music - nobody could fake the enthusiasm rolling off of this pistol of a performer with a voice as smooth a double-chocolate milkshake, even while howling the best Doobie Brothers song ever recorded. And who else but Karen Mack, a person one suspects rushes in where angels fear to tread, could use a voice filled with all the colors of a stained glass window on a little Bruno Mars and Bobby Brown number that leaves one short on oxygen. These are extremely personal journeys to these women and it shows - and the audience is so much the better for it.
Throughout the performance, each woman sings lead on one song, and all the rest of their numbers are group offerings, with some wicked good Jackson Five, some badass Bruce Springsteen, and an epic mashup that this writer wouldn't spoil for the world -- ya gotta buy a ticket to find out -- and I hope THOSE GIRLS never put that mashup on Youtube because it's their money number and it cannot be given away. It could be argued that every song the singers sing in this show is gold, because it's true, and those gold numbers are dusted in diamonds because Lennie Watts directs and choreographs them within an inch of their lives, and it is poetry in motion. Happily, though, their direction from the venerable Mr. Watts must have included the notes "Have fun" and "Don't get bound to the script" because many times the ladies broke out and spoke spontaneously about things going on in their lives and their day, and they spoke to us, making us feel like we were, for a moment, one of THOSE GIRLS, too.
Everybody should want to be one of THOSE GIRLS because THOSE GIRLS are what we all wanted to be when we were in school listening to the popular music of the five decades covered in the show ...Sing The Boys (Vol. 1): The coolest, hippest, grooviest chicks ... WOMEN... in town.
THOSE GIRLS Sing The Boys will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (where servers like Adam and Krista will rock your world with perfect service, just btw) one more time on December 2nd at 7 pm. For information and tickets please visit The Laurie Beachman Theatre Website
For all things THOSE GIRLS please visit their Website
Eve Eaton kicks it off.
Rachel Hanser rocks it out.
Karen Mack raises the roof.
Wendy Russell brings it home.
Photos by Stephen Mosher