Tuesday, March 12, 2019

182 (2018-2019): Review: CHICK FLICK THE MUSICAL (seen March 11, 2019)

"Pretty Women"

The first thing I spotted on my phone’s email feed as I left Chick Flick the Musical, a flawed but nonetheless pleasing enough new offering at the Westside Theatre, was a notice from its press representative. He was announcing its early closing on March 16, this coming weekend, rather than on its established closing date of June 29. 

Sharon Catherine Brown, Carla Duren, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora. Photo: James Logan Greenwell. 
The show has garnered a spectrum of reviews, some finding it seriously lacking, others thinking it imperfect but entertaining enough to be worth a visit. I share the latter opinion and am disappointed that its expected audience hasn’t turned out in sufficient numbers to warrant a complete run.
Sharon Catherine Brown, Megan Sikora, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Cara Duren. Photo: James Logan Greenwell.
My daughter, a former public-school teacher of a certain age, who’s precisely the kind of theatregoer the show is aimed at, was with me, and was shocked to learn of its imminent demise. She insisted that, even with certain retro attitudes it expresses, hosts of women would enjoy it, especially if they went with their friends. This matches what lots of reviewers, even those not on the show’s side, have said. In my daughter’s eyes, at any rate, many women would find one or more of its four characters to whom they could relate.
Megan Sikora, Carla Duren. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Chick Flick, with book, lyrics, and music by Suzy Conn, is a spirited, nearly plotless, chamber musical in which four well-put-together BFF chicks in their 30s and 40s gather for a chick flick-watching party at the home of Karen (Sharon Catherine Brown), a successful book editor who’s put aside her dream of being a writer. She’s married but her husband’s extended weekend away to play golf suggests a simmering problem.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora, Carla Duren. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Her guests are Dawn Demonte (Megan Sikora), a glamorous actress and beauty business consultant whose acting career is in a rut; Meg (Carla Duren), proprietor of a rising pastry business but partner to a sinking boyfriend relationship and a possible pregnancy; and Sheila (Jillian Lewis), a spunky greeting card designer and serial online dater. Allow me to single out Ms. Lewis, the understudy for Lindsay Nicole Chambers, shown in the photos here. As is so often the case, Lewis's performance was a standout that once again demonstrates how often understudies, who sometimes never get to go on, are the unsung saviors of live theatre.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora, Carla Duren. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Jason Sherwood has provided a bright, neutral, but cleverly adaptable set. with a semicircular background on which hang faux movie posters in different styles, each saying “Chick Flick.” These light up differently on cue, just as the wall behind them, generally pink, also changes colors under the magic touch of lighting designer Jeff Croiter. Doorways, for entrances, exits, and the provision of furniture, materialize and vanish quickly, as do smaller openings for the rapid introduction and disposal of props.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora, Sharon Catherine Brown, Carla Duren. Photo: Maria Baranova.
For a mostly breathless 80-nonstop minutes, the wine and tequila flow, double entendre jokes are cracked, the ladies behave like silly college girls on spring break, and the generic but still listenable pop music score gives us 14 songs, most with a heavy beat but with a pair of decent ballads as well. The lyrics aren’t Sondheim, of course, and some border on the banal, but a few come close enough, which is all a show like this requires.
Sharon Catherine Brown, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora, Carla Duren. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Constant chick flick references (The Notebook, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, It’s Complicated, Bridesmaids, etc., etc.) reveal how much these women relate their lives to movie situations, characters, and actresses. When faced by insuperable female questions, they need only ponder “what would Meryl do?” as noted in one amusing song’s acronymic title, “WWMD.”
Carla Duren, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora, Sharon Catherine Brown. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Chick Flick is a high-energy party about women struggling with low esteem, career dissatisfaction, and unhappiness with significant others. No one has much dimensionality, and each behaves in ways certain feminists would probably reject, but they have fun doing so. Given the slam-bang performances and personalities they’re provided by this quartet of dynamically talented singer-dancer-actresses, and the polished paces through which they’re put by director David Ruttura and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby, that’s all that’s necessary.
Carla Duren, Sharon Catherine Brown, Megan Sikora, Lindsay Nicole Chambers. Photo: Maria Baranova.
These four chicks manage, with one another’s friendship and help, to lift each other’s spirits so that each learns to fly. At the end, it’s Oscar night (see the show to find out why), the rear wall opens to reveal the orchestra pounding away under music director Matt Castle, and the women, now wearing glamorous gear (kudos to costumer Suzy Benzinger), enter for a rockingly joyous finale, “I Won’t Apologize for Love.”
Sharon Catherine Brown, Carla Duren, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Megan Sikora. Photo: Maria Baranova.
Given its limited aspirations, and the clear delight it offers many in its audience, Chick Flick may be gone before its time but, like its final song, it certainly needs no apologies.

Westside Theatre
407 W. 43rd St., NYC
Through March 16 (changed from June 29)