Sunday, November 4, 2012

Arsht Center: Girls Vs. Boys (2 reviews)

Girls Vs. Boys opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on November 1, 2012, a co-production with the University of Miami Department of Theatre to develop a new musical from the House Theatre of Chicago.
For sister and brother, Sam and Casey, entering the game of adolescence on opposite sides could be deadly. The soul-bearing score of throbbing rock, punk, metal and more illuminates the high-stakes, life-and-death game of sex that no one is prepared for. Fighting a fierce battle with parties and pills, will they find love or lose each other?
J. V. Mecanti directed a cast that included Luke Hamilton, Shannon Draper, Nick Ley, Rachel Lipman, and Kyle Axman. With choreography by Christine Kellogg and musical direction by Greg Brown.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Up front, the target demographic for Girls vs. Boys is much younger than the majority of folks who watched the rock musical’s South Florida debut Friday... Yet audiences of all ages have embraced Spring Awakening, Rent, American Idiot and other shows with rock-infused scores and young characters. So thematically, Girls vs. Boys has a shot to work for anyone. Or it would, if only it were a better show.
... as is often the case with newish musicals, Girls vs. Boys suffers from a weak book and not-so-hot lyrics, as when the angry almost Baby Daddy sings, “This is not my abyss to plumb.” Right. The music, as orchestrated by Brown and sung by the students, is fine and stylistically eclectic, but it can’t trump those other deficiencies, including the improbability of several characters’ relationships and reactions to each other.
Rachel Lipman plays the understandably moody Lane, the girl who opted for abortion, and she delivers a powerful solo on the defiant Thanks for Understanding, though she has to do it while being drenched in clichéd blood-red lights.  The charismatic Luke Hamilton is Lane’s furious ex, Krueger, a guy who’s hooking up with cheerleader-pretty Kate (Shannon Draper) even as he takes every opportunity (once after removing his shirt to become a faux rock god) to rage at Lane about her betrayal – yet the two are never made credible as a couple.  The emotionally volatile loner Casey (Nick Ley) has a first-time sexual experience with Lane (both remain in their underwear) and afterwards seems ready to implode. Again, if Lane were believable, she’d run fast and far from a guy who has gone off his meds and clearly needs serious, urgent psychiatric attention...
Girls vs. Boys has compelling moments, thanks to the professional and student talent involved. But this one doesn’t belong in the company of those successful rock musicals. In its worst moments, it looks like something dreamed up by the Bad Idea Bears from Avenue Q.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater Onstage:
Give the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts an A for effort for taking on a Herculean task of mounting an original show, and a rock musical for that matter, in times when theater audiences are more apt to settle for My Fair Lady or Fiddler on the Roof. Trouble is, Girls vs. Boys, which is being promoted as high-energy with a “throbbing” and “soul-bearing” score never reaches its potential.
With its promise of a “fierce” musical, the songs scream angst and anger, yet where is all this rage coming from?
The characters in Girls vs. Boys come off flat without much depth, which is more the fault of the book than the actors. The teens have problems, and, yes, some are serious, but nothing we haven’t seen before. The show, while it tries emphatically to be relatable, isn’t inclusive. The group lacks diversity and, while they are all sexual, no one in Girls vs. Boys ever questions their sexuality.
In its totality, this show comes off as not ready for prime time. The authors need to dig a bit deeper before Girls vs. Boys can take its show on the road as a knockout musical.
Girls vs. Boys plays at the Arsht Center through November 18, 2012.

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