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Theatre in Review: Chick Flick: The Musical (Westside Theatre)

Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora. Photo: Maria Baranova

Chick Flick: The Musical -- with that title, this is a show that knows its target audience and how to woo it. A girls'-night-out entertainment about a girls' night out, it is almost indecently poised to cater to fun-seeking females in the market for easy, familiar jokes about motherhood, Botox, online dating, Cosmopolitan magazine, pregnancy tests, makeovers, and those endlessly disappointing creatures known as men. If you attend, don't expect much of a line for the men's room.

Suzy Conn, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, has assembled a quartet of ladies for an evening of watching Love, Actually or Pride and Prejudice, accompanied by a nonstop flow of adult beverages. Naturally, each of them has a problem having to do with thwarted achievement or low self-esteem. Karen, a book editor, is overscheduled, fighting with her daughter, and convinced that her husband is drifting; she wonders what happened to her dream of being a writer. Sheila, a serial dater, is alarmingly convinced that her current beau is Mr. Right; after a few days' acquaintance, she is busily checking out wedding dresses. Meg, whose baking business is just taking off, discovers lipstick stains on her boyfriend's sweat socks. (He's been seeing a podiatrist on the side.) Dawn, once a busy television actress ("No one plays a corpse better than me!"), is reduced to slaving as a pitchwoman for Denny's House of Denim ("You'll love our fifty shades of blue!").

Will the ladies dish? Will they drink enough chardonnay and tequila to sink a flotilla? (Really, a PSA about cirrhosis would only be fair.) Will two of them square off before admitting that each is envious of the other? And will hugs follow? Will there be a makeup intervention? A broken heart? An anthem of self-affirmation?

Do you really need to ask?

The goodish news is that Chick Flick, for all its bountiful clichés and predictable gags, is a bit better than it needs to be, especially in the sprightlier musical numbers. Among the highlights are "From Meet Cute to Happy Ending," in which Sheila describes her new relationship entirely in terms of her favorite films' plot devices; "Iced Seduction," a spoof of makeup products with seemingly magical properties; and "WWMD," in which Karen and Dawn work out their issues through the films of their favorite thrice-nominated-for-an-Oscar actress. The finale, "Makeover Montage," spoofs those film sequences that elide plot questions through clever editing -- - "In The First Wives Club, Brenda, Elise and Annie transform that old warehouse into a brand-new women's center in two minutes and forty-one seconds!" -- using the same technique to achieve fairytale endings for each heroine.

The ladies make an ingratiating quartet, and, under David Ruttura's sensible direction, they look like they're having a good time; they frequently make weak material seem better than it is. (Sarah O'Gleby's choreography is fairly inventive at keeping everyone moving in character.) Sharon Catherine Brown's Karen, the unofficial den mother, skillfully unfurls one wine flight after another, keeping the friends well-lubricated. Lindsay Nicole Chambers brings plenty of sass and can-do attitude to Sheila. (When Dawn laments that she is a has-been, Sheila replies, reassuringly, "You are a been." With friends like that...) Carla Duren's Meg, under stress, amusingly works her way through a shot glass of truffles while pretending that all is well. Megan Sikora's Dawn offers brassy fun from her first entrance, saying, "I would say I'm excited to see you, but I can't feel my face."

Jason Sherwood has supplied a clever pink-and-white striped interior covered with posters that parody the logos of such indelible chick flicks as Pretty Woman, Mamma Mia!, The Devil Wears Prada, La La Land/, and Titanic. Jeff Croiter's lighting provides some lively chases involving illuminated poster frames, although I wish he didn't think pink quite so much. Costumes are vital here -- this is the kind of show in which a character carefully accessorizes for a career as a novelist before writing a word - and Suzy Benzinger styles each performer artfully; the finale ensembles, all lamé and marabou, are appropriately show-stopping. Peter Fitzgerald's sound design retains an excellent level of clarity.

I can imagine couples, looking for an undemanding evening's entertainment, arriving at the Westside Theatre, with her going upstairs for Chick Flick and him staying on ground level for The Other Josh Cohen, which can fairly be described as Chick Flick for Bros. Neither shows offers more than a handful of laughs, and the morning after, you might have trouble remembering what you did the night before. Then again, neither one pretends to be anything more. My advice: Try the chardonnay. --David Barbour

(8 March 2019)

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