The cast of Girl Talk: Priscilla Fernandez, Tina Jensen and Sonya Carter. Photo by Ken Flaherty.
BOTTOM LINE: A musical revue of cheesy girl-power tunes meant to entertain, not enlighten.
It doesn't feel right to review Girl Talk according to traditional criteria because it's a different kind of show with a very different agenda. This interactive musical revue has a loose story and three somewhat developed characters, but that's just necessary framework to explain why these ladies sometimes break into song. It's certainly theatrical with three energetic women grabbing the spotlight and showing off their extraordinary voices, but it's not theatre in the artistic sense of the word. There is nothing artsy (highbrow or lowbrow) happening at Girl Talk: it exists purely for its audience's enjoyment.
It's a lot like an R-rated Bat Mitzvah with copious sex jokes and a DJ replaced by vibrant performers (who are likely all under 40, although they talk an awful lot about the perils of menopause). Instead of glow necklaces, the audience is encouraged to don hot pink boas and light-up tiaras, and instead of sweets there are several cocktail servers at the ready. The music is similar: Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and The Pointer Sisters. And yep, they even do the Macarena. Audience participation isn't required but it is welcomed, and there are several chances to get on stage and dance with the ladies should you feel inspired to do so.
Under the premise of a live radio show taping, the three ladies at the mic are free to interact with their "live studio audience," a treat on the show's final broadcast (it seems the station, WPMS, has decided to end their aptly named show Girl Talk, after ten years on air). The show is presumably meant to discuss female topics, and on this particular final broadcast, we cover shopping, Botox, sex and funny things to call your "hoo-hah," among other stereotypical themes.
The characters are stereotypes as well: the over-sexed Latin girl Laura (Priscilla Fernandez), the slightly chunky divorcee punch-line Barbara (Tina Jensen) and the Jimmy Choo wearing "Carrie Bradshaw" everywoman Janice (Sonya Carter). Feminists beware: these generalized cliches might endorse womanhood, but they certainly don't make a case for equality.
Judgements seem unnecessary though, as Girl Talk's audience clearly has a blast. When I saw the show, a group of my fellow audience members (about a dozen middle-aged women) were there for the second time. They danced in the aisles, engaged with the characters (by literally talking to them from their seats -- a likely result of a few too many cosmos) and embracing chances to go stage and be a part of the show. There were also a handful of teenage tourists who were equally enlivened. The energy between the performers and the audience was palpable, and the joy radiant.
I imagine if you go into this show expecting a silly romp through the joys and horrors of womanhood set to a karaoke score, you will appreciate the zeal with which three talented singers perform from their hearts. A few cocktails in your system and you might well be dancing and singing along. But at the same time, any preconceived expectation of traditional musical theatre will likely leave you disappointed.
(Girl Talk plays at the Midtown Theater at HA Comedy Club, 163 West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, through March 27, 2011. Performance schedule varies: visit girltalkthemusical.com for more information. Tickets are $55 and are available at girltalkthemusical.com. Get $20 off tickets with discount code NEWYEARGIRL20.)