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You Had One Eye in the Mirror As You Watched Yourself Gavotte: David Kirshenbaum’s Vanities

We saw Vanities at New York’s Second Stage Theatre on Wednesday night, and hey, and we’ll take any excuse to invoke Carly Simon. The musical, based on the ’70s play that starred a young Kathy Bates, tells the story of three Texas girlfriends whose relationship spans from high school cheerleading practice to the sorority house and beyond. So was it clouds in our coffee or the whip cream on top? Honestly, a little bit of both.

The music was fun — has anyone else noticed how all musicals sound like Wicked these days? The production was well-done, and we especially liked how actual vanities were incorporated into the show: the three leads (Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles, and Anneliese Van Der Pol) each had a vanity (the furniture piece) containing her costumes, and they changed from one costume (and era) to another right on stage. (Worry not, they were wearing slips, so it was perfectly demure.)

But the plot itself, mostly unchanged from Jack Heifner’s orginal book (Heifner also wrote the book for this update) did show its wear. Stories following girls as they come of age and watch their modern lives change just aren’t as fresh as they were in the ’70s, and this play felt oddly like a musical version of The Group (but not a fun update, like this or this).

In the end, we think we agree with Time Out‘s theater critic: “While I wouldn’t recommend Vanities in general, the cast is charming and it’s a relatively fast 90 minutes. Take your mother or grandmother. It’s disappointing, but not an effort completely in vain.”

Meanwhile,  after reading a few reviews, we saw some similar themes emerging:

Be! Cliches! Be, be cliches!

Give me a T, for trite.
The New York Times

Gimme a B! Gimme an A! Gimme an N-A-L!
New York Daily News

But still, cute sets.

For a small show, “Vanities” has elaborate, colorful settings designed by Anna Louizos.
Associated Press

The element of the production that gets it (almost) perfect, is Anna Louizos’ breezy scenic design, which evokes eras with iconic images, like the album jacket of Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” in the 1968 college scene (so what if the LP came out in ’69).

- New York Daily News

Image courtesy: The Hartman Group PR

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