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'Girls' needs to let its hair down

THEATER REVIEW

The musical at the Coronet is invigorating when the cast sings, but it can drag otherwise.

December 08, 2007|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

"Girls Night." Wow. There's a show title and a marketing catchphrase in one concise, easy-to-remember package. And it's on the marquee of the Coronet Theatre, longtime home to "Menopause: The Musical."

It would appear that a license to print money has just been issued.

But not so fast.

This concept musical -- gal pals gathered for a karaoke song fest -- is no "Menopause" or "Marvelous Wonderettes" or "Mamma Mia!" At Thursday's opening, a cast member made a rather desperate attempt to get the audience on its feet, dancing and singing along, but she couldn't get the party started. A response like that needs to be spontaneous, and this show doesn't earn it.

A British export, "Girls Night: The Musical" is now trying, in an American version, to gain a foothold in the States. Its creator is Louise Roche, a mom and onetime television producer whose "I can do that" attitude has resulted in a growing empire of girl-bonding shows.

The core idea is a good one, and each of the five performers possesses the pipes needed to put across such power anthems as "We Are Family" and "The Love of My Man." When the songs are in progress, the show builds momentum; when the so-called script takes over, it stops dead.

"Dead," in this case, being both literal and metaphoric. That's because the proceedings are narrated by a deceased member of this circle of 40-ish women. Sharon (Jennifer Jane) materializes in an all-white ensemble of metal-studded, "Desperately Seeking Susan" vintage, accessorized with a pair of wings. She's been dead 22 years, having fallen off her trusty moped at 17. She left behind a daughter, whose engagement is the impetus for a night of karaoke, drinking, more karaoke and more drinking.

Sharon does most of the talking, long-windedly describing her friends (played by Lisa Fogel, Sonya Carter, Danielle Wetzel and Janine Smith) rather than letting us get to know them for ourselves. It's a stubbornly static approach that director Jack Randle never manages to jump-start. Perplexingly, Sharon doesn't seem to have liked her friends that much -- or so her often-cutting comments would indicate.

The songs, at least, are full of energy, as presented amid the swirling lights of the dance floors that so many of us once jammed in our own metal-studded belts and attendant new wave regalia. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is trotted out, as is "Holding Out for a Hero."

When a male blow-up doll, with exaggerated anatomy, is hauled out for a game of ring toss, the show hits its high.

Or low, depending on your perspective.

daryl.miller@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

'Girls Night'

Where: Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Jan. 6

Price: $49.50

Contact: (310) 657-7377 or www.ticketmaster.com

Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

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