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Musical Theatre Review Print

N.C. State University Center Stage Review: Revamped Rendition of Good Ol' Girls Never Misses a Beat - or a Punchline

September 26, 2003 - Raleigh, NC:

Although it downsizes the cast from seven to six actresses, playwright/director Paul Ferguson's recently revamped touring version of Good Ol' Girls, produced by The North Carolina Theatre and presented Sept. 18-20 in Stewart Theatre by N.C. State University Center Stage, never misses a beat or a punchline. There are a host of comic and dramatic gems in these vivid vignettes drawn from the stories of Hillsborough, NC, novelist Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies) and Boston-based novelist Jill McCorkle (The Cheerleader), and the alternately exuberant and wistful songs of country songwriters Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman would make a great cast CD. (Songs such as "Back in the Saddle," "Down to My Last Guardian Angel," and "All I Want Is Everything" would surely rocket to the top of the country-music Top 40.)

The Sept. 18 performance, which brought the audience to its feet at the final curtain for an enthusiastic and lengthy standing ovation, provided an apt showcase for the awesome singing and storytelling talents of original cast members Amanda Blackburn, Julie Oliver, and Katherine Rogers and newcomers Jodi Beck, Bianca Carragher, and Meme Simmons. 

In "Gulfport" (Smith), Amanda Blackburn provided a searing portrait of a good old girl whose abusive boyfriend just used her for a punching bag. Blackburn milked "Ruint" (Smith) for some well-deserved laughs and contributed vibrant vocals on "Good Ol' Girl" (Berg) and "Lying to the Moon"  (Berg). A consummate comedienne and a fine singer, Julie Oliver was terrific in "Sally" (Smith) as the reluctant resident of an old-folks home; and she combined with Katherine Rogers for a showstopping rendition of "Appalachian Rain" (Berg). Rogers also turned "Joan of Arc" (Smith) into a star turn and contributed a riveting solo on "Back When We Were Beautiful" (Berg).

Raucous renditions of "Booze in Your Blood" (Chapman) and "Bad Debt" (Chapman) and a powerful reading of "Sleeping Beauty Revisited"  (McCorkle) are just some of the impressive contributions of newcomer Jodi Beck. Newcomer Bianca Carragher sang like an angel on "Happy Childhood" (Chapman) and demonstrated a fine flair for comedy in "Getting My Period" (McCorkle) and "Academic Wife" (McCorkle); she tugged on the audience's heart strings as a beautician fixing her dead mother's hair in "Alice in the Looking Glass" (Smith); and she also teamed with Jodie Beck, Julie Oliver, and newcomer Meme Simmons for a roof-raising version of "Down to My Last Guardian Angel" (Berg/Chapman). And Meme Simmons was hilarious in the "Petting Lecture" (Smith) segment and brought the house down with her sultry version of "Late Date with the Blues" (Chapman).

Paul Ferguson once again stages Good Ol' Girls with style, wit, and contagious high spirits on a down-home set (built by Curtis Lee Jones), where the on-stage band sits on what looks like the front porch of a double wide. (If you have to ask "A double wide what?" Good Ol' Girls will make that clear.) Lighting designer John Bartenstein, costume designer Denise Schumaker, and sound designer Jonathan Parke also make substantial contributions to the show's eye and ear appeal

Musical directors Joe Newberry, Julie Oliver, and Mark Simonsen have gotten these six actresses warbling like (country) songbirds. And Simonsen (guitar), Nathan Logan (drums), Pete Lucey (piano), Don Raleigh (bass), and Bryon Settle (guitar/mandolin) make simply beautiful (country) music together. Settle's scorching (but all too brief) solo on "Late Date with the Blues" is just one example of the hot licks rendered by this bodacious backup band.

The best home-gown musical since Theatre in the Park's Ira David Wood III transformed Charles Dickens' classic Yuletide story, A Christmas Carol, into a marvelous madcap musical, Good Ol' Girls has embarked on a 27-city tour of the South. This must-see musical will return to the Triangle Oct. 17 to play The Clayton Center in Clayton, NC. Don't miss it.

The North Carolina Theatre presents Good Ol' Girls Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. at The Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St., Clayton, North Carolina. $20. 919/553-1737. North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/goodolgirls.html [inactive 9/04]. Lee Smith: http://www.leesmith.com/index2.html [inactive 10/03]. Jill McCorkle: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=0449912809#bio. Matraca Berg: http://www.matraca.com/ [inactive 4/04]. Marshall Chapman: http://www.tallgirl.com/.

Paras. 3-5 edited 11/5/03 to correct various misattributions.