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A CurtainUp Review
Good Ol' Girls

 You see the range from childhood to the nursing home. You can see your mother, your aunts, all the women you have known and loved. You can see yourself.  ——Jill McCorkle
 It's a show about attitude, about having a spunky approach to life. — Lee Smith
Good Ol' Girls
Lauren Kennedy, Sally Mayes, Gina Stewrt
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
A woman's life can be tough, with tears and heartbreak, a gritty spirit, a tender soul, and guys who beat you up when they get drunk, although they're sweet enough when there's no booze in their blood. The saving grace is dancin' and Jose Cuerva. All this is grist for country songs and when you set down five Good Ol' Girls from below the Mason-Dixon Line, add a soundtrack of bluegrass, old-time rock n' roll, and some blues, they'll let loose and tell their stories. Nashville singer-songwriters, Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman, bring musical depth and color to five Southern country gals. After hearing about their lives, these Good Ol' Girls -Lauren Kennedy, Sally Mayes, Teri Ralston, Gina Stewart, and Liza Vann-may share experiences of women you know although the production has disappointing flaws.

Just what are  Good Ol' Girls ? Says the opening song, "Her heart is kind, oh, but she speaks her mind.". And she has big hair because, "With her hair that piled up, she feels closer to God. That's a good ol' girl.".

Paul Ferguson adapted stories by two notable Southern writers, Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle and formed a fast moving revue of brief anecdotes and catchy tunes, the Nashville story songs that reflect feelings from a mixture of tradition and passions. There is not much of a plotline, no defined characters, just sassy survivors who keep the ninety-minute show moving. In this disconnected pattern of stories and songs, each woman has tells something personal of how she got here, her hopes and disappointments.

While one woman sings, the others listen to her, nod sympathetically, and occasionally sing backup. All together, they share memories like "Back When We Were Beautiful," the battle against aging as beauty slips away, and voice the optimism in "All I Want Is Everything." The one performance disappointment is Gina Stewart's uninspired rendition of "Booze in Your Blood" which should be a rousing powerhouse.

Sally Mayes stands out, portraying a character who's vulnerable yet plucky. She has the most dramatic segments, beginning as a teenager who got pregnant. When her mother told her she was "ruined" the girl decided she'd go out and have a good time because, "If you're ruined like I was, it frees you up some." Mayes also effectively shares the emotion and pain of giving birth and the joy that her baby now gives her. The most touching moment shows Mayes, a beautician, going to the funeral parlor to fix the makeup and hair for her mother who just died.

Unlike the drama,  Steel Magnolias or musical revue,  Pump Boys and Dinettes with similar characters, the episodic  Good Ol' Girls is a half-breed of cabaret and theater. The stage is a raised platform. There is no set time or place. The women walk in dressed in down-home casual clothes and props are minimal with some chairs, benches, guitars, bottles of Pabst. Four spirited musicians play behind a scrim on stage.

All the creatives here are familiar with the country genre. Songwriter Matraca Berg was inspired by Lee Smith's stories and contacted fellow Nashville songwriter Marshall Chapman about creating a musical version. Smith called writer Jill McCorkle to join in. The resulting Good Ol' Girls was first produced in 1999 with two acts. This version is shorter and kept at a brisk pace by director Randal Myler who certainly knows the genre though this production seems rushed and abbreviated. While the songs add a regional flavor and the experiences are familiar, the characters are not fleshed out and the women show no evidence of close friendships. At the end, we glimpse snapshots rather than journeys, and there is not enough to evoke the emotions of universality.

Good Ol' Girls
Based on stories of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle
Cast: Lauren Kennedy, Sally Mayes, Teri Ralston, Gina Stewart, Liza Vann
Directed by Randal Myler
Songs: Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman
Musical Supervisor/Orchestrations: Keith Levenson
Music Director: Karen Dryer
Music Adaptation and Arrangements: Joe Newberry and Julie Oliver
Sets Design: Timothy Mackabee
Costume Design: Michael Bevins
Lighting Design: Brian Nason
Sound Design: Lew Mead
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. No intermission
Block Box Theatre at The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre: 111 West 46th Street
Tickets: $70. ($85 premium). (212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or For group sales of 10 or more, (212) 265-8500 or
Performances: Mondays, Tuesdays, Friday and Saturday at 8PM. Matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.
From 02/08/10. Opening 02/14//10. Closing 04/11/10.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 02/13/10.
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