Vanities: The Musical at Trafalgar StudiosCultureTheatre
Written by Jack Heifner and based on his own off-Broadway hit play from 1976, Vanities: The Musical is a moving comedy that tells the story of three best friends in Dallas, Texas and how their lives and friendship change as they experience the tumultuous events that shaped America during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
There’s Kathy (Ashleigh Gray), the organiser, who is always making lists and planning for the future; Joanne (Lizzy Connolly), who only wants to go to college so she can be a sorority girl and dreams of building a family with her boyfriend; and Mary (Lauren Samuels), who, as the 60s progress, is increasingly disenchanted with the rosy destiny that her two friends envision for themselves. Instead, she finds inspiration in the bra-burning, women’s liberation movement of the period.
The tiny, three-fold cast is brilliant and convinces in purveying the characters’ gradual maturity from high-school cheerleaders to women in their forties that have dealt with their fair share of hardships. All three beautifully perform David Kirshenbaum’s energetic – albeit unmemorable – original music and lyrics, that evocatively changes style with the passing of the time in the play, from girl-group Motown à la Supremes, to late-60s anti-establishment rock, to songs that recall Carole King and Carly Simon. The change in music is echoed by the change in fashion style, efficiently portrayed through Andrew Riley’s glamorous period costumes and set design.
Heifner’s four-act play, whilst an interesting exploration of the kinds of roles women were entitled to during the days of the sexual revolution – from the quintessential “American housewife” to the sexually liberated career woman, but also the anxiety of failing to conform to predetermined models – is ultimately a tale of the importance of friendship.
Although it isn’t a masterpiece, Vanities: The Musical is thoroughly enjoyable and should satisfy fans of such films as Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club. For those who are nostalgic for the bygone days of miniskirts, the Kennedys, flower-people and disco, this is a musical for you.
Vanities: The Musical is at Trafalgar Studios from 1st September until 1st October 2016. Book your tickets here.
Watch the cast of Vanities: The Musical sing I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing from the score here: