Published February 15, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor
The rock musical Girlfriend, inspired by Matthew Sweet’s 1991 alt rock album, is a coming of age story of young love and self-discovery. The Lyric is bringing this regional premiere to OKC and their Plaza district stage via a collaboration with Washington D.C.’s Signature Theatre. Set in early nineties Nebraska, two young men find love in a world that’s not quite ready for them. Before the LGBTQ+ movement, before Pride Week, Queer Eye, and legal gay marriage, the world was a darker place for equality and the gay community. Particularly in the breezy winds of small-town middle America, where these two characters discover each other and themselves.
Signature Theatre director Matthew Gardiner says he first fell in love with the beautiful simplicity of the story, one which seeks to normalize the experience of a same sex couple. After all, first love is first love, and that feeling is universal.
Jimmy Mavrikes makes his Lyric Theatre debut as Will. Ian Marcontell returns to the Lyric, after last season’s production of Mamma Mia!, to play Mike. In a recent email interview, Marcontell says that his character, a recent high school graduate, is “on the surface, kind of an ideal high school boy. He plays football and baseball, ran for prom king, plays guitar and sings, all of those classic tropes. But underneath, Mike actually feels quite isolated as he struggles to navigate his sexuality and feelings for Will, wanting to get away from his father and hometown, and the mystery of what to do and what path to take in college and in life.”
Marcontell says he relates to the show, and thinks everyone else will too, in the “inherent awkwardness of a new relationship. You can be the most confident person you know up to a point, but I think we all know the feeling of getting near the person you like and then immediately clamming up and not knowing what to say anymore, which Mike and Will do plenty of in the show.” Marcontell continues, “I have to say what I relate to most with my character is the need to get away, especially after high school has ended. I love my hometown and all of the memories that I made there, but I think it’s so important, for your own personal growth, to eventually leave the nest and experience new things on your own.”
When asked about the overarching themes of this role, Marcontell says “As a person, I just believe that everyone deserves to live and love how they choose, and that accepting everyone for no less than exactly how they are is just the bottom-line for being a good person. And I think if people can see this show and see these kids going through the nervousness and anxiousness of new love, the same nervousness and anxiousness that they went through at some point in their life, then hopefully they can realize that ever attaching some stigma or prejudice against people just trying to live their lives like anyone else deserves to is just crazy.”
Marcontell also remarks on the unique aspect of a rock album turned stage musical, saying “I grew up listening to rock music so, for me, listening to Matthew Sweet and that whole genre/time period is truly a reintroduction into the first kind of music that I really got into. And I think that style is just so much more vulnerable than it lets on to be. So you listen to it and jam out, but then you tune-in to what the words are actually saying and you connect with it… and then you continue to jam out some more!”
Another unique quality of the musical is the all-female rock band, set to perform the music that inspired the show. The D.C. production of Girlfriend was recently nominated for eight Helen Hayes Awards, a prestigious honor in the D.C. arts community.
Written by Todd Almond with music and lyrics from Sweet, Girlfriend features music direction by Britt Bonney, scenic design by Misha Kachman and costume design by Frank Labovitz. Colin K. Bills provides lighting design, and the sound design is by Ryan Hickey.