Dorothy Marcic’s This One’s For The Girls, opened last night at St. Luke’s Theatre. As we meet our narrator (the delightful and informative Jana Robbins) who is also an academic writer, we see the plight of women. The role is based on Marcic’s 2002 book Respect: Women and Popular Music. In prior incarnation’s Marcic played this role, but left the singing to the three women (Traci Bair, Aneesa Folds, and Haley Swindal), who represent all women. The narrator and the three women sing through the songbook of their lives, slowly revealing the role women took, the attitudes placed upon them and their dependance upon men from the 1900’s until today using 63 of the top 40 lyric’s as our history book. As they sing history is show on projections behind them, thanks to the scenic design by Josh Iacovelli. As the narrator tells us her story, she is telling everyone’s story.
Bair, Folds, and Swindal each represent a type, as well as those time travelers though a women life. Folds represents the repressed with “A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” and “As Long As He Needs Me”. Swindal represents innocents and longing with “Wants To Be Loved By You,” and “I Enjoy Being a Girl”. Blair is all about how “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “What Ever Lola Wants”. As we reach WWII women turn from objects to working women and as the war ends they are stuffed back into the box. “Over There” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are sung in a perfect complexed harmony. The 50’s housewife is represented by “Que Sera, Sera”, “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked a Cake”, as baby’s cling to dresses and women are seen as Best Crocker. The 60’s are represented by the angst of women in songs such as “Johnny Angel,” “Bobby’s Girl,” “Where the Boys Are,”“I Will Follow Him”, and complete with pink princess phone, a fabulous rendition of “It Must Be Him,” sung with comic genius by Haley Swindal. As the 60’s end, women take back control with “Piece of My Heart” (again the wonderfully talented Ms. Swindal), “You Don’t Own Me”, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “I Am Woman,” “I Want To See You Be Brave,”“I Will Survive,” and “Respect”, which lead us to the present. The show has a heart stopping moment as the narrator sings “In My Daughter’s Eyes” and the screen shows mothers and daughters from all walks of life. This is the moment, when as women, we say it will be better, we are stronger and we will make a difference.
Ironically most of these songs are all written by men, so as much as they reflect our attitude, one has to wonder were words being put into our mouths?
Jana Robbins is the perfect narrator with her assurance and pathos. She breaks our hearts, but adds hope with her last song. Haley Swindle almost steals the show as she shows off her comedic side which is hilarious. What is even more surprising is when she breaks the mold and steps out as Janis Joplin. This show showcases Ms. Swindal’s Talents to the max. Aneesa Folds has moments with “As Long As He Needs Me” and “Respect”. Traci Bair looks sexily lithe, but doesn’t quite get her hook into her solos.
Tamara Kangas Erickson keeps this show at a clip and allows us to see all the archetypes we have become through out the ages. Her choreography is perfection, as she follows the dances though out the centuries. Zachary Ryan’s musical direction has those harmonies thrilling to hear. The original musical arrangements by Phil Hinton kept our interest, without losing the zests of the songs.
I can see this high-octane celebration of the American women and where she’s come from and where she’s going, having a long run, as well as playing in colleges and auditoriums across the county. This is a show where great grandmothers can take their grandmothers, mothers and teens. It is a bonding experience, despite the fact it becomes clear that though we are women we have always longed, needed and depended on men. Maybe now we can break that chain of thought and become independent enough to be equals. This One’s For The Girls is just or you.
This One’s For The Girls: St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46thSt. until Dec. 30th.