April 21, 2010
I don't think I've ever described a work for the musical theatre as "adorable" before. But that's the word I would most readily apply to Berkeley Repertory Theatre's new musical Girlfriend.
Based on Matthew Sweet's early 1990s album of the same title and directed by the mercurial Les Waters, Girlfriend tells the story of two teenage boys falling in love against the backdrop of Sweet's lollipop rock soundtrack played with verve by a dykey all-female four-piece band.
The piece is full of expectation, warmth and youthful vigor; it's the stuff of spring. Whether you're in love or remember falling in love (particularly for the first time) the work perfectly captures that initial feeling of excitement.
A two-hander starring Ryder Bach and Jason Hite, Girlfriend is on a much smaller scale than some of Berkeley Rep's other recent forays into musical theatre such as American Idiot and Passing Strange. But it's got more soul than these other works to my mind and it's so much more intimate than pretty much any other musical I've seen to date.
Theatreworks' recent two-hander, Daddy Long Legs, a love story of a similar size and scope, didn't achieve the same level of closeness and freshness. I really hope Girlfriend goes on to be performed elsewhere. It's a chamber piece though -- I don't suppose it'll ever make a Broadway show. But it would be perfect off-Broadway fodder.