The Goodbye Girl
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
101 E. Main, Norman
Norman’s Sooner Theatre has made a strong start to its season with a production of “The Goodbye Girl.”
Adapted from the 1977 Neil Simon film of the same name, with a score by Marvin Hamlisch, the lighthearted “ and somewhat lightweight “ musical tells the story of Paula, a single mother and former dancer embittered by bad relationships.
Elliot, a slightly overconfident actor, shows up on Paula’s doorstep with a lease provided by her most recent ex to sublet the apartment. After tempers flare, Elliot suggests sharing the space. Out of work, she accepts, and the two fall in love.
“The Goodbye Girl” made its Broadway debut in 1993, and while the musical didn’t make a huge impact at the time, Sooner’s production highlights all its best qualities: warmth, wit and easygoing charm, which is personified by an exceptionally strong cast, led by the talented Lisa Fox.
Fox does a great job of portraying Paula’s many facets, from her tough, sassy exterior to the more vulnerable woman dealing with the pressures of motherhood, the disappointment of failed relationships and the realities of getting older.
As Elliot, Joe DiBello exudes an understated confidence and charm. He’s a great foil for Fox, both comically and romantically. Together, they do a great job tracking the development of their relationship. His standout number is “Paula (An Improvised Love Song),” in which he gets to try on a number of different accents and singing styles.
In one of the best performances I’ve seen from a young actress this year, Kate Kemmet (as Paula’s daughter, Lucy) holds her own opposite the adult cast, selling the wise-beyond-her-years dialogue with ease. Shirley Franklin is a marvel in her musical theater debut. With great humor and an amazing voice highlighted during the number “2 Good 2 B Bad,” she’s a natural performer, totally at home onstage.
While the individual performances alone would have made this worth seeing, the strong chemistry among the cast as a whole elevates the work to something special.
The show features some of the best set design I’ve seen at Sooner, along with solid lighting and sound. Under the direction of Kevin Smith, the eight-piece band delivers a tight, energetic performance that perfectly supports the actors.
With “The Goodbye Girl,” Sooner Theatre again has proven to be a metro venue deserving of more recognition and bigger audiences. “Eric Webb