If you are looking for a sweet, romantic, musical comedy that is a good time at the theatre then may I suggest GIRLFRIEND at Diversionary Theatre? Set to the music of the Matthew Sweet album of the same name this musical will put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
The final bell has just rung on senior year in high school in the 90’s in rural Nebraska and Will (Shaun Tuazon), a bubbly, if nerdy student is excited to start this new phase of his life. Not that he has any plans for college, or even a job, but there is so much room for opportunity for him to explore now.
The summer has even started off on an unexpected moment; jock baseball player and honor student Mike (Michael Louis Cusimano) gave Will a mixtape of songs including the title track for him to enjoy.
(For the kids: a mixtape is when someone made a cassette tape of different songs and then gave it to someone they liked. Sometimes these songs were recorded by listening to the radio and waiting for the song to come on and record it while hoping the DJ didn’t talk over the song’s intro. It was an uncivilized time)
This becomes the soundtrack to this sweet and leisurely romance, as both guys try to figure out what this summer romance is. Deflty directed by Stephen Brotebeck the show is in no hurry as it shows the two talking on the phone, going to the drive in to see the same movie over and over, and slowly building up to the romance.
Tauzon’s Will is charming, funny, and brings a lot of personality to the role. His joy at receiving the mix tape sets the tone for the show “My life has become the musical I always suspected it was!” he explains delightedly. He excels at a kaleidoscope of facial expressions as Will tries to process the sometimes contradictory information he’s getting in each situation; from Mike’s restraint in clearly communicating his feelings, to the convoluted plot of the movie “Evangeline” that they keep seeing.
Cusimano’s Mike is slower to be emotionally available, as he is trying to navigate their small town, his friends, and his father’s expectations before he leaves for college. His acoustic guitar playing adds a gentler dimension to this popular jock.
Both Tauzon and Cusimano have excellent vocals, and complement each other seamlessly. The fantastic band, led by the talented Kyrsten Hafso-Koppman provide musical accompaniment and sing harmonies from a recording booth providing the soundtrack for these two guys.
The set by Yi-Chien is equally homey and simple, with moveable beds, and moveable cubes, allowing the performers to shine through. Costumes by Brooke Nicole Kresler are on point for the casualness of guys this age, and for the time period- right down to the overalls attached by one strap.
Every romantic comedy has a roadblock and this one is no different, but it does seem like a reasonable one for their age and circumstances.
GIRLFRIEND is a touching story, full of the giddiness, and confusion that first love always entails. It’s not yet Halloween, but this show is sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.
GIRLFRIEND is playing at the Diversionary Theatre through October 13th. For ticket and show time information please go to www.diversionary.org