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‘Girls Night’ Hits Chicago Center-Stage

photo by: Wally Gobetz/Creative Commons

Chicagoans out for a night of fun are sure to find one as they enter Detention Night Club. The multi-leveled club, with its massive dance floor, multi-colored strobe lights and deejay, gives patrons the upbeat and energetic environment fitting of a Saturday night.

In the corner, five women sit closely arranged on couches surrounding a karaoke machine, microphones and drinks in hand. As they begin to talk and laugh, the busy nightclub grows quiet. Scene one of “Girls Night,” the musical, has begun.

After successful runs in several U.S. cities, “Girls Night” is finally making its Chicago debut. A London-based musical written by Louise Roche, “Girls Night” follows the raucous party of five thirty- and forty-something women during a wild night at a karaoke bar. As the women celebrate both the good times and the bad, they sing such songs as “It’s Raining Men” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

The characters are wide-ranging, giving the show its fun and exciting appeal – Sharon, an angel who died at the age of 17, plays the role of narrator and follows the women throughout the night. Carol was born to party – twice divorced and still looking, she tends to dress inappropriately and bring a little sass.

Next is Liza, a married mother of three who complains about her husband all of the time. Kate is a married schoolteacher and is always very sensible. Rounding up the cast is Anita, a funny but scatterbrained young woman who always speaks her mind.

Tim Flaherty, producer of the show and owner of its exclusive rights, plans to make a Chicago debut with a Chicago-based cast. And after one day of auditions, he already has several girls in mind. Callbacks are set to begin April 4. Sonya Carter, the “Girls Night” director, said they have a good pool of candidates.

“It all goes pretty fast,” Carter said. “After the cast is chosen we have rehearsals for 15 days before opening night and then we’re off.”

With callbacks on April 4 and the first rehearsal on May 21, it may seem as though Flaherty and Carter have some downtime on their hands. This is not the case.

“We typically have about eight casts running simultaneously,” Carter said casually. “So we keep pretty busy.” Carter is based out of Arizona, Flaherty out of New York. Both of their schedules call for frequent travel.

Carter’s experience with “Girls Night” comes not only from directing but also starring in the musical. “My first role was Liza, but I’ve played three out of the five girls in the show,” Carter said. “I know every line by heart.“

Carter’s life was not always on the stage, however. Eight years ago, she was a young single mother working at American Express in the international department. Always very musical, Carter took voice lessons as a hobby.

“It was my voice coach who suggested I audition for ‘Girls Night,’” Carter said, “So I went and I met Tim, and I ended up getting the part. It was a perfect set up. Because I worked in international, I could work from anywhere. I would work during the day and do the shows at night.”

After three years, Carter joined Flaherty’s New York Company. A job opportunity arose within Entertainment Events, the company producing the musical, and Carter readily accepted.

“I could have stayed with American Express forever. But the cubicle life, I was crawling up the walls trying to find some excitement,” Carter said with a laugh. “I’ve found something I truly enjoy doing.”

While Carter is proud of her ambitions, there is one person even more so – her 18-year-old son, whom she calls “an incredibly talented” musician recording his first album with his band. “Changing jobs allowed him to dream, I think,” Carter said. “It made him see that you can think outside of the box, do something different and still be very successful at it.”

Flaherty says they wanted to bring “Girls Night” to Chicago for almost three years.

Although “Girls Night” has had successful runs in several U.S. cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Milwaukee, it had yet to come to Chicago because another Entertainment Events show was already playing in the city.

“Late Night Catechism,” a show centered on a funny nun teaching important life lessons to a classroom of students (the audience) originated in the city and maintained exclusive rights, Flaherty explained. With “Late Night” ending its Chi-town run, a “Girls Night” Chicago debut became a possibility.

Selecting Detention, a nightclub on State and Division Streets, was the easy part.

“We’ve always gone for roadhouses or clubs instead of conventional theaters,” Flaherty said. “The set of ‘Girls Night’ is a karaoke bar, with the five girls sitting in a lounge. We want a place that will make the audience feel like they’re sitting in the bar with them.”

“Detention is perfect,” Flaherty continued. “Twenty or so years ago, it was a nightclub that went by a different name. It’s gone through several names over the years. It’s great to think that people who went there in their twenties to dance, can come back, now middle-aged, and enjoy this show.”

Despite her many years with the show, Carter said she still gets nervous before each performance.

“I’ve always been one of those people who would just wing it,” she said. “Even when I worked at American Express, if I had a presentation I would wing it. I always knew that if I opened my mouth, I would be fine.”

But “winging it” has worked well for Carter.

“Even now as a director, I get nervous before every show. I love this show. I always want it to be the best it can be.”

Girls Night premieres at Detention Nightclub on June 7. Shows will take place Thursday through Sunday nights.

Go here to check out footage of the show.


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