Girls Night: The Musical at Mesa Arts Center: A Fun Little Gem from a Usually Dismal Genre

Even though Curtains is a Woman of a Certain Age, productions meant for W. of a C. A. have left me almost violently unsatisfied, sort of like being trapped in a timeshare presentation in which the salesperson claims that it will become nearly impossible to go wherever I please with merely a passport and credit card and that Cancún is just like the rest of Yucatán.

Perhaps I can distill this into a simple guideline for your benefit: If you're capable of having fun on your own, beware promises that a particular experience will impose rampant fun upon you.

But groups of women, generally speaking, seem to love these shows, especially the productions that are full of pop music, and more power to them/you, honestly -- I want people to have a good time. Many Valley theaters now serve alcohol, too, and Girls Night: The Musical is playing the house at Mesa Arts Center that lets you take drinks inside. It's also the best of its jukeboxy, estrogen-bonding, allegedly empowering ilk, at least that I've sampled so far.

A big plus is that the songs are sung in their entirety with their original lyrics. The setting is a karaoke night (and the set is an adorable little pop of Lucite and lamé that wouldn't be out of place on a Carnival cruise ship), which produces the odd effect of the audience going wild when a professional performer hits the highest or lowest note in a song, sort of the way rock fans respond to a bitchin' solo. And the performers have lovely voices that are mixed well for your listening pleasure.

No need to just listen, though -- singing along and dancing are fervently encouraged. Girls Night boasts a wee, backstory-heavy plot (and I was thrilled that no one in it gets cancer -- another huge plus) and an assortment of 40ish characters, who are probably intended to make the show relatable to all types of women, though the closer any of them hit to home, the more vaguely stereotypically offensive I found them to be written.

The cast, however, downplays the weird, clunky elements of Louise Roche's script and seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves and the audience. That is not just fun to watch but a true professional achievement -- I love to be happy for an actress for a more concrete reason than "Well, at least she has work."

Life is rough, so if an evening of something resembling theater can get a hard-working lady out of the house, away from the demands of family, and into a sparkly, shoulder-baring top to chug a bit of wine with her pals and bounce along to "It's Raining Men" or "Lady Marmalade," laughing until she's about to pee, she ought to grasp the opportunity. If, on the other hand, you get crabby because people who cannot pronounce "plebeian" have no business singing "Cry Me a River," you should probably go to Girls Night anyway -- you need to lighten up.

Girls Night: The Musical continues through Sunday, March 13, at Mesa Arts Center, One East Main Street. For tickets, $38, click here or call 480-644-6500. A funky, interesting thing called AMOCOCO is taking up the surface parking lot this weekend (and next) -- so give yourself a little extra time, especially if you can't use the garage stairs.

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