A Jukebox Musical With Depth

In a bit of theatrical legerdemain, a jukebox musical with depth with 40 Top 40 Song hits.

By Joel Benjamin, Critic

Haley Swindal, Traci Bair, Jana Robbins, and Aneesa Folds in a scene from “This One’s For the Girls” (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Dorothy Marcic pulls off a feat of theatrical legerdemain, writing an entertaining jukebox musical that also has an important message.  Using 40 Top 40 hit songs of the past 100 years, Ms. Marcic’s This One’s For the Girls cleverly exposes how women were and are perceived—by themselves, men and society—during different periods, beginning with “My Man,” Fanny Brice’s 1921 masochistic lament, and its 1967 sister song, “It Must Be Him,” through the drippy, square 1950’s “Que Sera,” and ending with the anthem, “I Will Survive.”

Four very different women, all terrific singer/actors, led by the level-headed, middle-aged, conservatively dressed Janet (Jana Robbins, in a wonderfully full-bodied performance) manage to tell their stories through witty repartee and music.

The others are played by young, twenty-ish Samantha (Haley Swindal, tall, elegant, but ever so slightly ditzy); thirty-ish Eden (Traci Bair, who plays and

You would think that these four modern strong women wouldn’t have relationship problems or be menaced by the glass ceiling, but you would be wrong—very wrong.  Unflappable Janet is “flapped” by former boyfriend Jason who flaunts his new, young arm candy leading her to ponder how popular songs reflect “the story of women,” “like an inkblot test of the culture.”  She ponders why Fannie Brice sang “My Man” rather than “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”

Haley Swindal, Aneesa Folds, Traci Bair and Jana Robbins in a scene from “This One’s For the Girls” (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Each of the others chimes in with a view of romance:  Eden sings “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”; Samantha chimes in with “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine”; and Rosa does a sardonic “Blues in the Night” (aka “My Momma Done Told Me.”)

During the jam-packed ninety minutes of This One’s For the Girls, the foursome run through a batch of songs that show the ups and downs of the last one hundred or so years through the eyes of women. Ms. Marcic puts her characters through the romantic, social and professional wringer.  Their individual tales are illuminated by songs and clever dialogue, helped by the set design of Josh Iacovelli which includes walls painted with artful pictures of famous ladies and a continuous slide show of portraits and scenes of historic and social importance such as fashions, sheet music, popular literature and family portraits.  Mr. Iacovelli also designed the subtle lighting which makes the most of the tiny stage.

Traci Bair, Haley Swindal, Aneesa Folds in a scene from “This One’s For the Girls” (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

The ever-morphing ups and downs and the social position of women are illuminated by portraits which range from Lily Langtry to Betty Boop to Mae West, on to Coco Chanel, Rosie the Riveter and Marilyn Monroe and finally to representatives of more modern attitudes: Gloria Steinem, Golda Meir, Oprah Winfrey and Madeleine Albright.  Rosa makes a point of bringing up Madam C.J. Walker, the inventive businesswoman who overcame not only being a woman, but a black woman.

Cynthia Nordstrom’s costumes range from Janet’s neat business suit to Samantha’s lacey miniskirt to Eden’s odd layered look and Rosa’s crisp, well-constructed dress, all in variations of black and gray.

Tamara Kangas Erickson’s direction and choreography give This One’s For the Girls a pleasantly sincere gloss bringing out the humanity in each character and her joy in telling this story in music and movement.  These four are down-to-earth, real people with whom we can identify and empathize.

This One’s for the Girls (open run)

St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.ForTheGirlsTheMusical.com or http://www.Telecharge.com

Running time:  90 minutes with no intermission.