GIRLS VS. BOYS Could Use More War

May 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

REVIEW: Girls vs. Boys

Book and lyrics by Chris Mathews, Jake Minton and Nathan Allen

Music by Kevin O’Donnell and Nathan Allen

Directed by Nathan Allen

The House Theatre

* * (out of 4)

So young, so shirtless

When I first read the description for the House’s newest musical Girls vs. Boys, I was led to believe there would be an actual battle of the sexes on-stage.  I’m talking blood, grenades, and air raids.  The actual show, detailing the lives of some teenagers, is closer to Pat Benatar than Patton.  Guns are pointed, but they are just metaphors for those other (decidedly less deadly) weapons, our words.  In a valiant attempt to become a manifesto for a generation, Girls vs. Boys comes off as broad and safe.  An actual body count might have pushed this musical into new territory, but, alas, way more hearts are broken than bones.

Girls vs. Boys was the result of The American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern this past summer. The book and lyrics were penned by House heroes Chris Mathews, Jake Minton, and Nathan Allen and the show was composed by Kevin O’Donnell and Nathan Allen.  The show revolves around all those teenage things we see in movies and TV: crazy parties, drugs, ADD, sex, all that good stuff.  The problem with the show is that it doesn’t add anything new to the genre.  Kids are young and crazy, we get it.

The ensemble here is pretty strong (especially the emotional heart of the piece, Tyler Ravelson), and the energy is the required nutty level.  Collette Pollard’s sleek set includes a built in mosh pit for a cheaper ticket, but when I went the “moshers” looked like they were at a Spoon concert.  However, the cast is clearly having a great time, which carries over to everyone in the audience.

I’m not sure this qualifies for a cult musical, because I can’t imagine anyone but the House putting it on.  The music, lyrics, and plots mesh together alright in the Chopin, but nothing from the show weasels into your consciousness like Spring Awakening—you won’t be humming these songs weeks later.  The show is fine on the surface, but staying-power requires an intriguing core that drives everything forward, be it unique yet relatable stories, fantastic music, or (ideally) both.

Teenage girls throwing comically-large cartoon bombs at boys could be the answer.  I’m just saying.

Barry Eitel

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