By Erika Brown Thomas
Calling all American girls—specifically moms born in the 80’s with children of their own!
If you can remember thumbing through the American Girl Catalog and making a wish list of what doll, outfits and accessories you’d love to have and hold…make a date with your daughter(s) to see Broadway in Chicago’s American Girl Live.
This brand new musical brings six of the beloved American Girl dolls (albeit some of the “newer” characters—for those of us with a love and longing for the retired dolls, we’ll have to wait for the next show) to life with a narrative that promotes girls through positivity and healthy friendships.
Monica Poston holds the cast together as the quirky and affable camp counselor, Alyssa Berman. Poston’s over the top antics and high energy keep the audience interest when some of the dialogue and plot wax cliché and corny.
A well crafted and truly magical moment occurs with the entrance of the first doll-come-to-life, Mary Ellen Larkin (Kelsey Pressnall) and her girl, Tori Buckley (Jenna Bruce). While expecting the dolls to appear—this transition is wonderfully imaginative, clearly and commercially executed, holding with the strong tradition of the American Girl Company brand.
Double cast as both Nia Marcus—a popstar in the making and Melody Ellison—beloved doll growing up in the civil rights era, Laila E. Drew gives a particularly memorable performance with a lot of riffing and musical shoutouts throughout the show!
Shelby Miguel shines as a comedic force whilst playing Rosie Imelda, a scientist with a lot of facts at her disposal. Her facial expressions bring forth lots of laughs. Ashley Diane plays the quiet, yet strong, Bella Menendez with a sensitivity with which many girls will identify.
The show is truly a good experience. While the plot and songs are a bit contrived, the costumes are as historical and beautifully pieced as the dolls for purchase across the way. The best take away, however, is the positive example of an all-girl cast interacting with each other in true friendship and that is well worth any corniness that arises.
Broadway in Chicago presents “American Girl Live” through May 12 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. More information and tickets are available here.