We’ve all heard of “good ol’ boys,” and we’ve all got an impression of just exactly what a good ol’ boy might be. The Urban Dictionary definition begins: “A man or older boy from the South, in this case the stereotypical redneck or hick. Likes cheap beer, NASCAR, football, pro wrestling, hunting and/or fishing, and country or hard rock music.” But what about the other half of that population? Is there such a thing as a “good ol’ girl”?
Neuse Little Theatre’s production of Good Ol’ Girls, now playing at “The Hut” (the former American Legion Log Cabin) in Smithfield, NC, is a musical written and adapted by Paul Ferguson. It is based on stories by two North Carolina writers: Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle; and it includes songs by Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman. The show can be best described as a collage of glimpses into the lives of the women who cohabitate the world of the good ol’ boys, and these glimpses are provided through a series of songs and monologues.
This Neuse Little Theatre presentation of Good Ol’ Girls is directed by Ruth Mills, with musical direction by Todd Johnson and choreography by Patsy Castellano. It is performed in front of a highway map of our section of North Carolina.
Johnson also plays keyboards with the band that includes Ned Attayal on guitar, Darius Rose II on drums, and Michael Mills on jug (yes, jug). The band performs on an upstage-center platform. They provide first-rate accompaniment for the musical numbers. This band is so good that our Department of Picky-Picky felt that the evening would have been enhanced if they had provided the preshow music in place of the recorded music that played while we waited for the show to start.
The actor/singers are Natasha Allen Thompson, Teresa Gurley Shearin, Theressa Rose, Nancy Boyle Gibbs, and Leanne Bernard.
The show is, in part, a social commentary — many of the songs and monologues paint pictures of the lives of women who seem to define their lives in terms of men. And these men are seldom admirable. Some are freeloaders, some are cheaters, and some are abusive. In another poignant sketch, we witness women in a mental institution calling out for their dead husbands.
On the other hand, we also see portraits of kindhearted women who are not afraid to speak their minds. And we hear their commentary as they criticize and react to some very extreme “good ol'” political views (such as “anyone who burns the flag should get the death penalty”).
Unfortunately, on Friday night, the microphones were set too low. We were seated in the back row, and it was often difficult to hear the monologues and, especially, the words to the songs. That said, with a bit of concentration, we did very much appreciate several of the songs, including a few lamentations: “Lying to the Moon” and “Appalachian Rain.”
“Booze in Your Blood” and “All I Want is Everything” were fun in a silly sort of way. “Happy Childhood” and “Back When We Were Beautiful” added a sense of nostalgia to the mix.
We found the premise of the show to be interesting and the writing engaging. However, this is community theater. So, if you are looking for first-rate, professional quality singing, with tightly performed, energetic choreography, this show is not for you.
On the other hand, if you want to share an evening with five local “good ol’ girls,” as they thoroughly enjoy themselves while presenting snippets of the lives of several archetypal good ol’ girls, remember the words of William Shakespeare’s Duke Theseus: “The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream V.1.211)
This production is far better than some. It was greatly appreciated by a full house on Friday night; and we feel it will improve as the run continues, especially when they resolve the issue with the sound. These good ol’ girls are definitely enjoying sharing the evening with their audience, and that always enhances the theater experience.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 18th Raleigh, NC Triangle Review review by Shannon Plummer-White: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/02/neuse-little-theatres-good-ol-girls-is-a-foot-stomping-feel-good-time/.
Neuse Little Theatre presents GOOD OL’ GIRLS at 3 p.m. Feb. 19, 8 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25, and 3 p.m. Feb. 26 in “The Hut” (the former American Legion Hut), 104 S. Front St., Smithfield, North Carolina 27577, at the corner of Front St. and U.S. 70 Business (Market St.).
TICKETS: $15 in advance and $17 at the door.
BOX OFFICE: 919) 934-1873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Ol’ Girls (1999 Chapel Hill and 2010 Off-Broadway musical revue): http://www.goodolgirls.com/ (official website), http://www.leesmith.com/works/goodolgirls.php (Lee Smith’s web page), http://jillmccorkle.com/good-ol-girls (Jill McCorkle’s page), and https://www.facebook.com/Good-Ol-Girls-254469365898/ (Facebook page).
Matraca Berg (songwriter): http://www.matracaberg.com/http://www.goodolgirls.com/creative/index.html (Good Ol’ Girls bio).
Paul Ferguson (adapter and original director): http://www.goodolgirls.com/creative/index.html (Good Ol’ Girls bio).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.