In time for the holidays, The Pin-Up Girls is the latest musical at the PlayHouse on Park in West Hartford, Connecticut. The story is written by James Hindman & Jeffery Lodin. Directed and choreographed by Darlene Zoller, the story follows Leanne and her four friends as they perform a Christmas cabaret at their local VFW hall. The Pin-Up Girls is a ninety-minute show playing through December 23rd. Performances are Tuesdays at 2 P.M, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 P.M, Fridays at 8 P.M, Saturdays at 2 and 8 P.M, and Sundays at 2 P.M Tickets range from $42.50-$55.00 and can be purchased at playhouseonpark.org. Doubling as a tribute to the men and women who served, the songs the friends sing are based on the letters written by active servicemen & women that the friends find as they clean up the old Hall. Letters ranging from the First World War to Afghanistan, Leanne and her merry band of friends sing their hearts out to the members of their local VFW. While in concept, it was a fantastic idea, the story’s execution did not land. While the actors portrayed modern young adults in a convincing performance, the story was difficult to follow and continued to feel off with the song selections. While the show has its faults, it is light-hearted and welcoming to all ages, especially to anyone who has a connection to our armed forces.
As Leanne, Olivia Fenton played an ambitious young woman who wanted to pay tribute to the troops. Fenton’s interactions with her on-stage friends and family were fun and quirky. For example, Fenton portrayed Leanne as being a lifelong friend to Megan (Maggie Keene) and Dana (Hillary Ekwall). These three’s interactions were endearing through their dialogue with the audience and each other. This in contrast to Fenton’s rapport with her on-stage brother, Joel (Christopher Rhodes), was comical and relatable to many. The way Fenton acted as a judgemental older sister was enjoyable to watch. From acting as cowgirls pretending to ride a horse, to acting as Frenchmen, to even taking selfies for their off-stage friend, the cast portrayed modern young adults who were having fun throwing a show together in their local VFH Hall.
Deserving of recognition is Leanne’s final friend and castmate Kevin (Kevin Barlowski). Not only did he act alongside his castmates, but Barlowski was also the sole musical performer in the show. With the music frequently switching genres and time periods, Barlowski’s performance is worth noting as on point and his duet in the second half of the show was charming and a personal favorite of the evening. While his castmates were able to alternate their performances, Barlowski more than held his own and performed on piano for the full 90-minute show.
The stage setting was quaint and felt realistic to an authentic local Christmas event. With dollar store holiday lights and fold-up tables with red tablecloths, Rebecca Donagphy, Production Stage Manager, made one believe you were in a VFW Hall. The lighting Designer, Stef Carr, went with simple lighting choices to focus between a single performer and the whole cast.
While the actors performed their parts well, the story fell flat on this viewer. Written by James Indman and Jeffery LodinThe characters were meant to be performing songs based on the letters they found in the VFW Hall. However, the story was convoluted at times when the characters were looking through the boxes of letters wondering what was inside, and then suddenly selecting the exact document they needed to perform the song.
The song selections for this performance also led to its inconsistency. With homage to the evolution of music over time, the actors sang classic songs from musicals such as Oklahoma! and Les Miserables. While the show also referenced pop culture artists with references to Beyonce and Nsync, it felt more like a modified jukebox musical. For example, the characters made a musical reference to Indiana Jones while acting as a World War One soldier. The song did not match what was going on in the scene. While the music could have been a way to transport the viewer to the time when the letters were written, it felt out of place and made it more difficult to follow the time jumps.
While Pin-Up Girls has its oddities, it is a wholesome show about the importance of remembering who came before us and honoring the sacrifices the men and women of our country have made for us. If you are looking for a night out with the family and are looking for a jolly and jovial evening, this may be a show for you.
Again, for dates, times and ticket information, go to the Playhouse on Park website.