BWW Review: The Alternative Rock Musical GIRLFRIEND Opens at Spinning Tree Theatre
How sweet it is, GIRLFRIEND, the alternative rock musical written by Todd Almond from the 1991 hit album of Matthew Sweet opened Saturday, January 25 at Spinning Tree Theatre in Kansas City. Directed by Michael Grayman-Parkhurst with Musical Direction by Pamela Baskin-Watson the play based on Sweet's 1991 album of the same name and runs through February 9 at the Black Box Theatre located in the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.
From an age when a mixed cassette tape expressed the feelings of one person for another comes a powerful and tender coming of age musical duet based on what would have been forbidden love in 1993. The play opens on the last day of school for Will a graduate who is thrilled that his studies are complete and vows never to learn anything else. What's more exciting to him is that a jock, Mike, at the school has given him a mixed tape. Will is almost giddy as Mike calls and invites him to go with him to a drive-in (a popular form of entertainment in the '90s).
Their relationship grows as they repeatedly go to the drive-in to watch the same movie, night after night after night. Will becomes disappointed when Mike tells him he has a girlfriend since he was hoping to create a deeper friendship than what he now thought Mike was after. Will is comfortable with his sexuality, openly flaunting it in front of everyone. Whereas, Mike is unsure of his preferred orientation, hiding his true feelings from Will, himself, and his girlfriend (who we never see or meet).
Jeremy Ragland plays Mike, the jock who has given Will the mixed tape. Ragland does a wonderful performance of a young man lacking confidence or conviction towards what he wants from his life. He has a very good voice and when he joins with Dakota Hagar as Will in a song it is almost magical. Ragland makes his Spinning Tree Theatre debut with GIRLFRIEND. He has previously appeared in GROSS INDECENCY...(Broadway World Regional Award Nomination) and as the Beast in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. He can also be seen in Steven Spielberg's WEST SIDE STORY film due to be released in December 2020.
Dakota Hagar is fantastic giving a powerful and energy-driven performance as Will. He brings his character to life with a natural flow and a very good sense of timing. This is also Hagar's debut at Spinning Tree and the Kansas City area. He is currently in his final semester at the University of Missouri at Kansas City where he is working towards his Master's Degree in Theater History.
The two young stars are backed up on stage by a four-piece band which includes: Music Director Pamela Baskin-Watson conductor and on the keyboard, Darcie A. Hingula vocalist and on guitar, Kelly Crane on bass, and Caitlyn Henson on drums. Hingula gives a dynamic performance of, "You Don't Love Me".
GIRLFRIEND continues at Spinning Tree Theatre through February 9. Order tickets online at www.spinningtreetheatre.com.
Photos courtesy of Richard Fabac and Spinning Tree Theatre.
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