Vanities: The Musical is making its European debut at the Trafalgar Studio and it is the ultimate stage chick-flick. The show celebrates the friendship of three high school cheerleaders, Kathy (Ashleigh Gray), Mary (Lauren Samuels) and Joanne (Lizzy Connolly) from a small town in Texas and it follows them through their lives.
The show starts in the 1960s with the three girls singing about ‘The American Dream’: getting married and having children. As they grow up they realise that they can’t always be the pretty, popular and perfect high school cheerleaders they once were.
The first act of the show is quite light hearted and very, very funny. As a recent graduate, the high school and college versions of the three central characters are rather relatable. Their topics of conversation, whether they be jobs, weddings or friends, are all too familiar and there are relatable qualities in each girl. The second half is much darker and shows just how much the world has changed. They are no longer the same naive girls they used to be and now have to make their way in a cold and complicated world. The show takes a turn for the morose as none of the women seem truly happy.
The staging is simple but impressive allowing the cast to quickly change their styles and portray the various eras of their lives. It’s quite a bright and colourful set which suits the younger versions of the girls, becoming more subtle as they grow up.
Lauren Samuels makes a wonderfully feisty Mary who is after her independence and sexual liberation. Samuels has unbelievable vocals – as in fact do the whole cast. Ashleigh Gray plays the controlling and neurotic Kathy as she transforms from the peppiest cheerleader to a broken woman and she is perhaps the most relatable of the characters. Lizzy Connolly as the naive and, at times, dim-witted Joanne is really impressive. Throughout the show she comes across as a simple air-head but with one number she sings about her betrayal and really shows off her range and what a fantastic actor she is. The casting is perfect and the performances (both as an ensemble and individually) are flawless. It’s a catchy soundtrack, the kind that makes it hard to sit still in your seat. “An Organised Life” in particular sticks with you all the way home.
As enjoyable a show as it is, Vanities does fall into the trap of being melodramatic and cheesy – but overall as light entertainment it’s a really fun night at the theatre.
Vanities: The Musical plays Trafalgar Studios until October 1.
Photo: Pamela Raith