Short & Sweet host Diana Martinez reviews First Wives Club
The pre-Broadway engagement of First Wives Club playing at the Oriental Theatre has high potential for a long marriage on Broadway thanks to a wonderful script full of fantastic characters, laugh-out-loud one liners and a dynamic trio of ingénues who have created honest, relatable, vulnerable and multidimensional characters who are engaging, funny and powerful. Credit is due to Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women) for continuing her track record for creating some of popular cultures most empowered female characters. The distinct, real characters, with flaws and all, is what makes this show work so well.
First Wives Club is a hilarious and inspiring story about friendship at its strongest … and revenge at its sweetest. It is based on three friends who unite at a funeral of their college friend, who suffered from depression and tragically died due to her divorce. The three college friends discover that they are all struggling in their respective marriages. Plagued by midlife crisis issues and husbands who are interested in younger, prettier women, the first wives form a deeper bond. As the show progresses the marriages all fall apart and the women derive strength from the ability to laugh, challenge each other and plot revenge.
Director Simon Phillips (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical) did a great job leading the creative team and delivers a strong unified production with scene changes that propel the plot forward and drive the pace. Gabriela Tylesova pulls double duty designing both costumes and scenery beautifully reviving the aesthetic of the 90s fashion and style, helping us to stay grounded in the period. The driving score weaves in favorites like "My World Is Empty Without You", "Stop in the Name of Love", "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" and "Reach Out I'll Be There", with new songs and powerful ballads from the legendary Motown composing lyricist trio of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.
The sets and costumes are fantastic, but what sets this show apart is a cast full of interesting dynamic characters that are fun, relatable and honest. The young, new girlfriends are annoyingly beautiful and the "first wives", fueled by betrayal and armed with wit, carry this show. Christine Sherrill is absolutely captivating as the scorned, blonde bombshell starlet with a self-absorbed vanity you can't help but love because it is balanced by her street smarts and sharp tongue. Carmen Cusack plays the perfect "by the book" wife who courageously steps out of her comfort zone to try to spice up her marriage and thrives in a hysterical therapy scene, where she struggles to release her inner vixen to reignite her marriage. Her physical humor and subtle nuisances are so believable she had the audience rooting for her while laughing in hysterics. Veteran Faith Prince commands her scenes as the perfect every-(wo) man with a strength and courage to speak her mind and embrace her place in life through humor, honesty and pride.
The mantra of the show is "men may come and go, but girlfriends are forever" and it works -- it makes you want to call your best girlfriend and thank her for getting you through the rough times.
This show is the perfect girls night out, but men will really enjoy it too as it has great comedy throughout. The show runs about 2 and half hours and is playing at the Oriental Theatre through March 29.