Here at the Theatre, we've been crushing on Girlfriend for weeks. Now that the show has officially had its world premiere, we're sharing the love -- and so are the critics!
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Beguiling... Love is in the air at Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage. Throbbing teen hormones burst through the power-guitar chords and yearning anticipation trembles in the lyrics of Matthew Sweet's songs. The flayed-skin raw nerves of adolescent insecurity and the awkwardness of first romance inform every glance, gesture and warbled note in the performances of Ryder Bach and Jason Hite... It's a very different, much more intimate musical than the Rep's previous two, Stew's dynamic, art-rock Passing Strange and the extra-high-powered American Idiot, both of which moved to Broadway. Author, vocal arranger and co-orchestrator Todd Almond uses the melodic rock ballads and mood of Sweet's 1991 album, Girlfriend, to craft a gentle, heartfelt, two-character chamber musical that celebrates the pain and joy of first love between gay teens in early '90s small-town Nebraska... The music, two attractive actors, and music director, keyboard player and vocalist Julie Wolf's electrifying four-woman band make it an exhilarating joy."
"A blast from a universal past everyone seems to share... Not content with rocking Broadway with the Green Day blockbuster American Idiot and the funky alt-rock tuner Passing Strange, Berkeley Rep is raising the bar on hip new musicals again with the world premiere of Girlfriend, which revolves around the '90s power-pop hits of Matthew Sweet. Thoughtfully directed by Les Waters, Girlfriend is actually a simple, old-fashioned love story that happens to be about two boys falling for each other in the heartland. It's a delicate gem of a musical that's genuinely, well, sweet... From the clammy first date to the world-stopping first kiss, Girlfriend welcomes you back to the age of inarticulate innocence. Todd Almond nails the awkward pangs of teenage turbulence. He has a pitch-perfect ear for the peculiar musicality of gawky adolescent conversations [and] the show soars during the musical interludes as Sweet's pop anthems sweep us away with their irresistible exuberance... At its most powerful, Girlfriend takes you back to the time in your life when your favorite pop songs took on an almost-religious significance. It's as if you turned up the dial on your own redemption."
From the San Francisco Examiner:
“Girlfriend, the world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, represents an extraordinary feat in modern theater: This musical based on 1990s pop rocker Matthew Sweet’s cult-classic album of the same name is wholeheartedly sweet... Bach and Hite’s exceptional harmonies add oomph, making the tunes even richer than the recorded versions, while the crucial music is provided by the kick-butt, all-female band... Director Les Waters and choreographer-storyteller Joe Goode deftly focus both on touching details and the universal experience of young love, making Girlfriend a rare treat — authentic, intimate and romantic, and, as the 'I’ve Been Waiting' lyric goes, 'perfect in so many ways.'"
We're often asked what composer Matthew Sweet thinks of this show. You can find the answer to that question in Karen D'Souza's excellent feature on Girlfriend, which includes an interview with Matthew! Read the story.
Above photo: Ryder Bach (left) and Jason Hite star in the world premiere of Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com.