Remember back in ye olden days when you made mix-tapes filled with your favorite, most meaningful tunes for your first same-sex crush and he/she loved the music just as much as you did? Todd Almond certainly does. The acclaimed playwright is such a fan of the perfectly-crafted power pop songs on Matthew Sweet’s hit 1993 album Girlfriend that he was inspired him to write a stage musical bearing the same title and wonderfully illustrates that intense, post-adolescent desire to kind a kindred spirit. Set in small town Nebraska in 1993, Almond movingly charts the relationship of two young men during the summer following their high school graduation. Mike (Curt Hansen) is a popular jock, who in a switch from the usual way this scenario goes, is the one who offers the compilation of his most-cherished songs to the lonely outsider kid, Will (Ryder Back), and the two begin a sweet, sometimes awkward relationship.
“I think the show is joyous and a celebration of being in love with somebody, whoever that person is,” Les Waters, who has directed productions of the show since it premiered in 2010 at Berkeley Rep, told Queerty. “You carry those albums from your teens and twenties through the rest of your life.”
While sentimental gays of a certain age will find the show a heart-tugging nostalgic fantasia, it’s just as relatable and enjoyable if you’re young and straight and have never even held a CD in your hand.
“People who’ve been brought up in small towns identify with it very strongly,” Waters informed, but added that there’s a broad demographic in the audience. “All these young kids are coming to see the show. It’s a show about sexuality and realizing all the great things your body can do when you meet the right person.”
One standout element in the production is the use of an all-female band that plays live upstage behind the actors.
“I made a decision that the band would be all women and they’d be older than the two guys,” Waters noted. “There’s a sense of them saying ‘We’ve been there and worked it out so come on guys, catch up.’”
The show is being performed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles through August 9. Scroll down to see a few photos from the production.
Photos by Craig Schwartz