04 May 2010

Yesterday, instead of heading over to The Met Costume Gala and stalking some celebrities, I hung around Broadway and attended the free reading of the new musical Volleygirls at The New World Stages. (It's all good. I figured it would be chaos over at The Met. A little audio/visual art is great too.)

Volleygirls is a story about the Saint Agnes Volleyball Team set in Bexley, Ohio during the current fall sports season. The show starts off introducing the current members of the team: Jess (Allison Jill Posner), the team captain; Marisol (Monica Raymund of Lie to Me), who will be revealed as a lesbian later in the show; Liv (Shaina Taub), the "fourth dumbest girl in the school"; and Ingrid (Raushanah Simmons), the tall and "nice" one. Their coach, played by Hairspray's Clarke Thorell is suffering from a case of "loseritis". He separated from his wife who happens to be the sports coordinator of St. Agnes, played by Jennifer C. Johnson (she plays 3 roles.), he dwells on the one bad review he got on his published work, and his team could not complete the roster of 6 players let alone beat the best of the league, Arlington. Eventually, they find two new girls, Katie played by Alex Ellis of Legally Blonde and Crash, portrayed by Joy Suprano. Katie is the new girl in school while Crash was the soccer team goalie looking for a change in scenery, "I don't want to STOP things from happening. I want to MAKE things happen."

At first, the team did not get along well with the new additions. Their "system" was not working - more like a hit or miss. Then Marisol, Ingrid, and Liv devise a new strategy which Marison dubs as "habali", wild pig. They practice in secret and then they start winning again. The team tries out another player, shy girl Jocelyn played perfectly by Leslie Flesner. She then asks Marisol to teach her how to "move like you do", confident and so sure of herself. This leads to Marisol developing a crush on Jocelyn.

Meanwhile, the sports commentator Xavier (Gideon Glick, Spring Awakening) is revealed to have a crush on team captain Jess. He coins the term "Volleygirls" which Jess shoots down initially. Jess' dad played by Eric Michael Gillett (who also plays 3 roles) does not believe in the team's coach and repeatedly speaks his mind to the Coach about it.

Under the high-energy music and (what I can imagine) action, nothing much happens apart from the team winning and losing some games until they get their act together and reach the finals against Arlington. And the underdogs always win, right? ;)

Volleygirls is a real feel-good show. The characters were developed nicely. The music/vocals were great. My favorite vocal performance was Eric Michael Gillett as the Russian referee. He was hilarious! Among the girls, I really enjoyed Monica Raymund's portrayal of Marisol. The music was really engaging. The "Habali" song reminded me so much of Spring Awakening's "I Believe" (this show seems to be following me around haha) because one, they rhyme; and two, it gets stuck in your head like a boss.

I am curious as to how this will look like fully staged. There were a lot of scenes where the team was at play. Somehow, I cannot picture how that will look like just yet. Also, would they bring more people to fill in some roles? Both Gillett and Johnson play 3 parts and even if they change costumes, it may still be confusing. (That was one of the things I didn't like so much about American Idiot - Mary Faber and Christina Sajous playing named roles as well as ensemble. After a while, you'll be wondering why Heather and Extraordinary Girl are in there spazzing with everybody haha.) Overall, the show is really fun. A musical about sports is something new to me and I enjoyed it very much.

Volleygirls is directed by Neil Patrick Stewart, Book by Rob Ackerman, Music by Eli Bolin, and Lyrics by Sam Forman.


There will be another reading on Monday, 10 May 2010 at The Beckett, Theatre Row. For more information, click here. RSVP volleygirlsmusical@gmail.com for guaranteed seats.


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