On Theater: Women belt out hit tunes and empowerment

Girls, as Cyndi Lauper has observed, just want to have fun, and the quintet of ladies comprising the new show "Girls Night: the Musical" certainly are having plenty of that at the Laguna Playhouse.

For those playgoers who love "Forever Plaid," the premise is pretty similar, except only one of the five ladies is dead. That would be Sharon, whose frisky life ended at 16 when she fell off the back of a moped, but not before giving birth to a daughter she barely knew.

That daughter is now grown and engaged, and Sharon's four buddies, all now crowding around the big 4-0, have gathered at a karaoke bar to celebrate and reminisce. Sharon's there as well, a white-clad angel complete with wings, but of course no one is aware of her.

This, in essence, is show creator Louise Roche's flimsy storyline essential only to set up a batch of musical numbers, hit tunes from their childhood and beyond, ranging from "Cry Me a River" to "It's Raining Men."

The more the ladies imbibe, the more outrageous they become, and most of the fun is transferrable to the audience. All are blessed with superb voices, although one tends to go quite far over the top in pursuit of laughter.

Sharon, in the Laguna production, is a perky and ironic Molly Valencia, an apparent understudy filling in for the actress listed in the playbill. Valencia has no trouble in keeping up with the others and shines on several occasions as commentator and unseen (by the other four) chorus member.

Sonya Carter's jaded, sex-starved Liza is one of the show's highlights, particularly when helming "It's Raining Men" and "I Will Survive." The latter is employed as a glorious anthem for the quintet (even though one of them hasn't) and reprised as an encore.

Leslie McQueen revels in her happy housewife role, gleefully turning up the volume on such numbers as "The Love of My Man" and the second-act opener "I Am What I Am." Tina Jensen is pure sex appeal as the voluptuous Carol, whose terrific voice finally is spotlighted in the second act.

Only one actress pushes the envelope into farcical territory — Priscilla Fernandez, ranting and raving as the willowy Kate, whose long, frizzy hair becomes virtually a sixth member of the cast. Of the quintet, she's the only one whom you might advise to "put a sock in it."

The humor is brash and bawdy, with the pervasive aura of estrogen enveloping the playhouse. Director Jack Randle has bolstered the production with some eye-catching choreography, assisted by Emily Morgan, while musical director Joseph Thalken has set an exhausting pace.

"Girls Night" is targeted, obviously, at female audiences, but the guys also should get a kick out of it as the ladies get it on with a vengeance.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Girls Night: the Musical"

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday matinees until June 5

Cost: $36 to $70

Information: (949) 494-2787 or lagunaplayhouse.com

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