BWW Reviews: GOOD OL' GIRLS - A Little Bit Country

By: Feb. 15, 2010
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The feisty, determined Southern woman has become a beloved institution in both popular culture and theater-for examples of the latter, please see Steel Magnolias or The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And while we wait for Steel Magnolias, The Musical (it's coming, I assure you), we have Good Ol' Girls, a new musical revue that presents scenes, songs and stories about the lives of women in the Carolinas. The show opened last night in the 65-seat Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre at the Roundabout.

There's plenty of room for great music and fun theatre here, but the show misses most of its marks despite a cast of such theatre and cabaret notables as Lauren Kennedy, Sally Mayes and Teri Ralston. While the show could have worked a pointalist portrait of Southern women, with each song and scene as a different dot, instead it comes across as disjointed and incomplete, with no center to hold it all together. The music and lyrics are traditional country; the stories are nothing terrifically original; and much of the show seems to offer pseudo-profundities as life lessons and morals.

The number of cooks in the musical's creative kitchen offers some clues as to why it feels so disordered. According to the programme, the show is "written and adapted by Paul Ferguson from the stories of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle with songs by Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman." With so many people involved, it's difficult for a show to feel cohesive and unified, and Randal Myler's direction doesn't do much to help make the pieces into a whole.

Which is not to say that there is nothing of value in the show-some songs (the Andrews Sisters-esque "Betty's Bein' Bad" and the bright "All I Want is Everything") are very effective, and give a hint of what the show could have been, or could still be with some revisions. And the performers (Mmes. Kennedy Mayes, Ralston and Liza Vann, accompanied onstage by fierce guitarist Gina Stewart and offstage by a four-piece band led by Karen Dryer) give it their all and sing wonderfully. And several scenes have a strong emotional arc, especially one of two women struggling in a nursing home, and one of a beautician taking stock of her life and her family.

With some revisions and a clearer focus of what it wants to be, Good Ol' Girls could be a fun celebration of the strong, vibrant ladies that have made Southern women so appealing to pop culture sensibilities. There's gold in them thar hills; it just needs a bit more work to come out.



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