dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Vanities: The Musical review at Trafalgar Studios, London – ‘terrific vocals’

Lauren Samuels, Ashleigh Gray and Lizzy Connolly in Vanities: The Musical at Trafalgar Studios, London. Photo: Pamela Raith

There’s a genre of fiction that some people call chick lit – women-centred narratives designed to appeal to young women readers. There’s also a musical theatre equivalent, most famously represented by Wicked, that tell stories of female friendship, conflict and empowerment.

Playwright Jack Heifner and composer David Kirschenbaum have added to the genre, adapting Heifner’s long-running 1976 off-Broadway play Vanities into a modest cabaret musical that transferred to New York’s Second Stage in 2009 after debuting in California, and is now receiving its belated London premiere.

Like The Witches of Eastwick, it’s a show about three long-time friends, whom we first meet when they are high school cheerleaders in Texas. It then follows them to a sorority house as they are completing their university education, before leaping ahead to a Manhattan penthouse where one of them is now living. But unlike the women in Witches, they’re not defined in relation to a man, but in relation to each other and their morphing personal and professional lives.

Maybe it’s a function of musicalising the source material, but Vanities has a tendency to feel by turns mushy, manipulative and contrived. Though the plot is cheesier and has more holes than a block of Emmental, Kirshenbaum has also provided a set of bright, attractive songs that contain echoes of the Supremes and Burt Bacharach, but also a punchy individuality of their own. I can imagine them being transplanted to plenty of cabaret programmes. And they are performed here with great gusto and terrific vocals by the sensational trio of Lauren Samuels, Lizzy Connolly and Ashleigh Gray.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
A trio of superb performances elevate an otherwise bland musical
^