Musicians in girl group try to live rock 'n' roll dreams

Katia Cardenas, Amanda Thomm, Becka Linder, and Laura Mahler.
Katia Cardenas, Amanda Thomm, Becka Linder, and Laura Mahler.
Photo by Scott Pakudaitis
It's time to rock 'n' roll all night with the latest production from Theatre Unbound. The company's show, girl group, travels back to 1965, and looks at the pressures faced by a  group of young women who just want to play the music they love. 

The play comes from the pen of playwright Carol Critchley and is directed by Stacey Poirier.

Poirier first read Critchley's work in 2002. "I was immediately hooked on her biting humor and tragically flawed, yet loveable characters. They were strong women making big choices," she says about Critchley's play Simply Gerta.

"When we were looking for a humorous script to include this season, she sent me a scene from her current work in progress. It was hilarious, and we signed her on," Poirier says.

There wasn't a specific band or story that Critchley used as inspiration. "The characters in the play are an amalgamation -- and some imagination -- of many different stories and, in fact, different eras. I drew from life stories of Anita O'Day, Genya Ravan (Goldie and the Gingerbreads), Etta James, LaVerne Baker, and Mary Hopkins, to name a few," she says.

And part of the inspiration just came from a lifetime of loving music. "I grew up listening to a lot of this music on the oldies stations, so to a degree, the feel for the music was organic. Lyrically, I listened and studied what musicians in that time period were writing about and how they were expressing themselves. ITunes and Youtube were excellent resources in this regard, and served as fantastic repositories of girl groups and female musicians, in general," Critchley says.

The music was crafted by Edie Baumgart. Casting the right performers who could act the roles and also form a band was vital, Poirier says.

"First and foremost, we needed actors that could portray Critchley's characters.  Secondly, they needed to be able to play the instrument assigned to their character.  Then they had to learn to sing and play original music together as a band -- live -- during the course of an otherwise straight show. These four amazing women have been rehearsing together since October, and it has been so rewarding to see them grow both their musical skills and a real band camaraderie," Poirier says.

The Furies are played by Becka Linder, Katia Cardenas, Amanda Thomm, and Laura Mahler. The company also includes Edward Linder, Channing Jones, and Tara Lucchino.

"A struggle at the core of the play is fairly common to artists of all ages and from all ages: 'Do I stay true to my heart and follow my artistic passion, giving up possible security and stability? Or do I forsake my vision and parlay what talent I have into an attainable payday and fame?'" Critchley says. "And while there has probably never been a period that is so amenable to seeing women create and control their own musical destiny, the fact remains that it's still very much a male-dominated industry. More often than not, when a female musician is discussed, it's in terms of her physical appearance first."


girl group
Saturday through April 28
The Lowry Lab Theater
350 St. Peter St.,  St. Paul
For tickets and information, call 612.721.1186 or visit online

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Lowry Lab Theatre

350 St. Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102


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