I’ve got the Supremes singing Where Did Our Love Go through my laptop’s speakers right now – the perfect girl-group accompaniment to my review of what was a hilarious and touching show. Until I read the program I didn’t realize that the 3 main characters are based on the the writers themselves, one of whom was divorced, another dumped by her long-time live-in boyfriend and the third whose recent romance went up in flames. Knowing the background made the experience even better, more real – though without that information you are still guaranteed to find either yourself or your girlfriends in these characters. We’ve all been her – the girl going through a heartbreak, trying to pick up the pieces and glue them all back together. Sometimes doing ridiculous things to ourselves. Cleaning too much. Maybe a little stalkery. Yeah, they captured it all in Bittergirls: The Musical.
You may have heard of Bittergirls from its previous incarnation as the smash-hit play bittergirl that toured London to New York City and had three sold-out runs in Toronto. The success of the play prompted the writers, Annabel Fitzsimmons, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore to share their stories in a relationship advice book called BITTERGIRL: Getting Over Getting Dumped, which was published in 2005 and also was wildly successful.
So, what to do after your play and your book soar to the sky? Create a musical, of course! Fitzsimmons, Lawrence and Moore did this spectacularly with a 60’s and 70’s soundtrack that will have you at least humming along. The song lineup included some of my favourites from The Supremes, The Ronettes, The Crystals and so many more. Basically, it was a soundtrack that reminded me I was totally born in the wrong music era. How fun to have it all come together on a beautiful set, with incredible voices and impressive acting.
Let’s talk about the set for a minute. You know what blew me away? How simple it was. How very few props were needed to transform a simple stage to an aerobics class or the bushes outside an ex-lover’s home. (Seriously, you just have to see it to know what I’m talking about). The simplicity of the set really drove home the idea that you don’t need much when the talent is sky-high.
The three actresses were literally a harmonious match; from the first note of the first song and throughout both acts, they blew me away with how their voices weaved through each other, never one overpowering the other unless it was called for in the song. And their script – there were times when all 3 of them had to say the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same tone…and they did it! I would have loved to watch their rehearsals as they practiced that because I am sure there were some serious bloopers. (Anyone reading this from the creative team? Valerie Easton, the director? I really think you should add a ‘blooper reel’ that is acted out live on stage after the production). Kudos to Lauren Bowler, Katrina Reynolds and Cailin Stadnyk – you gals were amazing! And of course, ‘the guy’ who played 3 guys, Josh Epstein, you did your job well! Thanks for letting us laugh at you.
The musicians who sat in the top corner – Diane Lines on piano, Madeleine Elkins on guitar, NoeLani KeAloha on drums and Linda Kidder on bass – were wonderful.
I had a great time reviewing the touring Arts Club Theatre at Surrey Arts Centre. You can find out when they’ll be in your part of the Lower Mainland as they make their rounds until March 15, 2017.