April 15, 2010


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Girls! Girls! Girls!
A girls’ night, a girl alone on stage and girls in the burlesque show
By Karen Plumley arts@hippopress.com

It’s theater for girls, about girls, or starring girls as three intriguing productions hit the stage this April. A group of girlfriends sing their hearts out while the angel of a deceased friend spills their intimate secrets in the giddy comedy Girls’ Night: The Musical. Girls dancing with an old-fashioned cabaret-style flair will get the audience kicking up their heels in Good Ol’ Burlesque Show. And for something a little more subdued, see a single actress take on more than seven personalities in the premier production of The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead.

Girls’ Night: The Musical
At the Lowell Auditorium on Friday, April 16, the audience will have a chance to follow five girlfriends enjoying a night out at a karaoke club as they re-live the past, examine the present and try to figure out what their futures hold. Expect lots of girl talk in this production, including many laughable moments as well as some seriously touching ones.

“Lady Marmalade,” “I Will Survive,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” are just a few of the popular songs in the show. The finale includes a lively version of “It’s Raining Men.” 

“Between the hilarious dialogue and the great music, this is a really fun show,” said Heather Shea, Lowell Auditorium’s marketing manager. “I previewed it in Worcester recently, and was completely shocked by the audience’s reaction. People were actually dancing in the aisles,” she said.

There are a few thought-provoking moments. Untimely death, parental separation, unwanted pregnancy and depression are a few of the more serious topics on the table during Girls’ Night. No subject gets a huge amount of attention, but there’s enough for people to chew on.

Described by Applause Magazine as “Desperate Housewives meets Mamma Mia,” Girls’ Night: The Musical was written by Louise Roche, who has also authored the novel Glutton for Punishment, written and produced five other plays, and is a writer/producer for various TV programs, including the docudrama Shoot to Kill. Jack Randle (TV credits include EastEnders) is the director. Ticket prices range from $30.50 to $56.50. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, 50 East Merrimack St., Lowell, Mass. Call 978-454-2299 or visit www.lowellauditorium.com.

Good Ol’ Burlesque Show
Good Ol’ Burlesque Show will entertain adults of both genders and all ages. The show’s choreographer, Erin Lovett Sherman, describes the production as “naughty, pie-in-the-face comedy.” Burlesque, a form of entertainment using parody and grotesque exaggeration, was popular in the early 20th century, and is brought back to life in this production. The two-act show can be seen at the Middle New Hampshire Arts and Entertainment Center in Franklin on the weekend of April 16-17.

Presented by ArtsFest and Tabula Rasa, a collection of seemingly unrelated performances come together in Good Ol’ Burlesque Show, with a common theme of side-splitting comedy. Local professionals perform a barbershop quartet, French cabaret, and numbers from The Muppets, Jekyll and Hyde and many others.

“The skits will be familiar, but the compilation is completely original and the music is live,” noted Sherman, who also performs in the show.

According to Sherman, the cast and crew worked on this production for nearly eight months on a collaboration that brings back memories of the old Franklin Opera House. The venue hosted thousands of burlesque and vaudeville shows, starting when it opened in 1893 and continuing through the 1940s. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Franklin Opera House will once again see the likes of burlesque.

The audience will witness cabaret girls dancing, singers crooning old-time musical numbers, and actors performing the slapstick comedy of Abbott & Costello, the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle. This two-hour performance ends with a modernized, hip-hop stomp version of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” 

“The show is a light-hearted, appealing date night idea,” Sherman said.  Don’t forget to check out the Laconia Historical Society’s photographic display of old artists and theaters in the lobby. Ticket prices are $11 to $14. The shows on Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17, begin at 7:30 p.m., at the Middle New Hampshire Arts and Entertainment Center, 316 Central St., Franklin. Call 934-1901 or visit www.themiddlenh.org.

The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead
The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, written by Australian playwright Robert Hewitt, will begin its three-week run with a regional premiere on Thursday, April 22, at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell. Boston actress Karen MacDonald plays the lead role of the vengeful, redheaded Rhonda Russell. She also plays the brunette, the blonde, and every other character in this one-woman show.

According to Dan Berube, marketing manager for the theater, the play is a journey into darkness and back out again, combining comedy and drama, while showing how the vengeful actions of one person can impact so many others. With one woman playing all the roles, this play is a physical demonstration of the interconnectedness of society as a whole.

In the production, Rhonda Russell’s quiet and seemingly happy home life is quickly devastated by a series of unforeseen events; among other things, she learns that her husband is cheating on her. She goes mad, and in a single moment she changes the lives of many people who are close to her. The other characters all offer their impression of Rhonda’s breakdown and ultimate redemption. MacDonald’s character transformations are a fascinating part of the performance, according to Berube: “These are very physical, dramatic changes occurring throughout the show by one very gifted actress,” he said.

Directed by Melia Bensussen, The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead will be performed at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 132 Warren St., Lowell, from April 22 through May 16. Tickets range from $15 to $56. Several shows are planned, including a “pay what you can night” on Thursday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. Check www.merrimackrep.org or call 978-654-4678 for more dates, times and special pricing.

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