Many women who have been dumped can probably relate to the sentiments in Bittergirl. The hurt feelings, the coping strategies, the desperation; but I expect many would find it clichéd and presumptuous as it relies on stereotypes of the poor rejected girl.
The three relationships in Bittergirl provide examples of how a breakup may take place at different levels of commitment: an artsy boyfriend ends things with his girlfriend to find his “magic,” a common-law partner moves out unexpectedly — he needs some space — and a husband decides he needs to follow his dreams and leaves to join the RCMP. All three men are played by Josh Epstein, and he does a good job of embodying these characters so we are never confused which one is on stage.
Singing classic ’60s tunes such as “He’s a Rebel” and “Mama Said,” the three bitter girls impress with both their solos and harmonies. The musical numbers all relate to their woeful situation and unfortunate relationships, but there must be a way to incorporate these songs while not letting these women fall into stereotypical roles of the era — even though the setting is modern.
The girlfriend drinks her sorrows away, the common-law spouse turns to obsessive cleaning, and the wife buries herself in her endless tasks as a mother, career woman, and leader of the household. While these are realistic reactions to a breakup, the actions they take next are where the problem lies. After scrutinizing every detail about their relationships — and themselves — to figure out what they could have possibly done wrong to be dumped, the bitter girls blame themselves and desperately try to win their men back.
While some women may try to win back a boyfriend or husband who has treated her badly or dumped her for inexplicable reasons, is it necessary to perpetuate the stereotype of the desperate rejected woman who will do anything to win back her man? And do we need a marathon workout scene where the women try to lose weight and improve their looks to win him back? We can do better than that, and in a show that isn’t even set in a bygone era, there is no reason not to.
Despite this flaw, there are some extremely funny Bridesmaids-style scenes where we get to laugh along with the bitter girls after they get over getting their man back and move on to drunken revenge. One of the funniest scenes takes place in a jail cell where they fight and make up and sing a medley of “This is My Life,” “Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and “I Will Survive.”
Finally over their exes, and wearing sequined dresses reminiscent of the Supremes, the girls close out the show with impressive harmonies and an uplifting medley, including the crowd pleaser “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and a repeat of “I Will Survive.” The soul and R&B sounds of the ’60s give this show a vibrant energy, and despite a couple of faults, there are still plenty of laughs to be had.
Bittergirl: The Musical is currently touring the Lower Mainland:
Surrey February 22 – March 4,
Mission March 5,
Coquitlam March 7 – 11
Maple Ridge March 12
Burnaby March 14 – 15.
The show will also be presented at the Granville Island Stage June 15 – July 29, 2017.
For more information, visit artsclub.com.