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'Girl Talk' makes a great girls night out

Theatergoers know the drill: Find your seat, silence your cellphone, wait in well-behaved silence for the show. Well, forget all that at "Girl Talk: The Musical" now playing in Shea's Smith Theatre.

The preshow announcement instead urged audience members to "remove all restrictive clothing." No Spanx were flung at the stage, but the atmosphere was electrified when the three high-energy stars of the show stomped, sashayed and slithered their way through the crowd.

The opening-night audience was mostly female, of course, but that's where the similarity ends -- they were of various ages, races and walks of life. Although many of the jokes were bawdy and an early quip about organ donation led to a running joke with a bright-purple marital aid punchline, it was all in good fun.

"Girl Talk: The Musical" is the sister show to Louise Roche's "Girls Night: the Musical," which entertained crowds here in 2008 and 2009.

The paper-thin plot of "Girl Talk" is just substantial enough to support the jokes, songs, dialogue, ad-libs and dances that decorate it. We are the live studio audience for the final installment of the Girl Talk radio show, run on, appropriately enough, WPMS.

Our hosts are Barbara (Tina Jensen) and Janice (Laurie Elizabeth Gardner). Barbara is a good old gal in cowboy boots, jeans, a long shirt and vest, with a hidden flask, a loser ex-husband and hot flashes that could melt the ice caps. Janice is a wrapped-slightly-too-tightly blonde in a knee-length gray skirt, a primly ruffled cardi and Jimmy Choo spectator pumps. Janice has the big house, the high-powered career and the baby plans, although we soon get hints that, like most women, she is dealing with deeper, hidden issues.

Setting off these two normal-looking women is guest Laura (Priscilla Fernandez), an incredibly funny and immediately likable cartoon. With her long, slender legs emerging from knee-high, laced-up shiny red, sky-high platform boots and her high, flower-bedecked hair, she looks 7 feet tall. She wears a tiny, tight, stretchy black minidress so low that it exposes most of her hot-pink sequinned bra and occasionally creeps up enough to show off her bright red panties.

Her facial expressions evoke Lucille Ball and her physical flexibility is remarkably Gumby-esque as she demonstrates how, for example, her boots can double as earrings.

The three hit the stage in a whirl of energy with a stand-up and clap-along rendition of Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud," the first of a dozen tunes that punctuate the play. The ladies settle in behind a desk to ask the audience what they would like to discuss. "Men!" comes the shout, to laughter that has already become raucous.

Speaking of men, there were some there! The actors gave a shout-out to the good-natured guys who got dragged to the show, then used them as occasional comic foils. Three men later joined the stars on stage for a demonstration of the "mouth Macarena," in which tongue movements coordinate with the usual arm, hand and hip motions. It's basically impossible to do, but hilarious to watch.

The fast-moving show includes a demonstration of a springy jaw exercise product called "Jowls Be Gone" (the before and after photos are, wickedly, of Demi Moore), and hot-pink, breezy mesh underwear for men who need to keep things cool below the belt.

The terrors of waxing, the temperature swings of menopause, and a claim by Janet that she must have a C-section "because my frame is too petite" all drew howls from the amped-up audience. A thong was worn as a party hat, Laura urged the others to "focus" with an obscene-sounding lilt, and the audience was asked to yell out their secret names for "down there."

And so the shout of "Hot Pocket!" in the inevitable ladies room line at intermission provoked gales of laughter.

In the second act, the passive-aggressive sniping of Janice and Barbara began to wear, and the plot took a sudden, unnecessary turn for the serious. Isn't that always the way? But a little "I Will Survive" attitude will solve that too.

All of the songs, from Gretchen Wilson's "Red Neck Woman" and Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and Aretha Franklin's "Think," were very good, with all three cast members singing well. But Gardner showed off her stellar pipes in the show's one sad song, "Stay With Me Baby."

But there was no time to brood. The final tune had everybody up, clapping, singing and dancing in celebration of this girls' night out.

email: aneville@buffnews.com

***

"Girl Talk: The Musical"    

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

Presented through April 29 in Shea's Smith Theatre, 658 Main St. Tickets are $40. Call 847-0850 or visit www.sheas.org.