By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
From Can't Hardly Wait to Superbad, debauched teen parties have long been a theme on the big screen. But in live theater? Not so much. So when Girls vs. Boys opens at the Adrienne Arsht Center November 1, executive vice president Scott Shiller says, it could attract a new type of theater patron.
"It's not South Pacific. It's not The Sound of Music. This is a musical for our generation," he says.
The show follows a handful of teens preparing to attend high school, some for their senior year and others as freshmen. At one of those high school parties with red Solo cups galore and no parental supervision, relationships are formed and tested, with repercussions that ripple throughout the rest of the show. "The stakes are so high when you're an adolescent," Shiller points out. "Every little glance, every breakup... has life-or-death consequence."
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Girls vs. Boys owes its very existence to young people. The show was written by founders of the House Theatre of Chicago, the company that's brought The Sparrow and Death and Harry Houdini to the Arsht. Writers Chris Mathews, Jake Minton, and Nathan Allen tested Girls vs. Boys at Northwestern University as they wrote the story, culminating in a 2010 workshop production of the musical in Chicago. But they thought it still needed some tweaking, so when the Arsht asked to restage Girls vs. Boys this season with the University of Miami's Department of Theatre Arts, they saw it as a chance to finally put on the finishing touches.
It's also a chance for UM's students and the pros at the Arsht to "provide the resources to a group of playwrights to really develop a new piece," Shiller says. The Arsht's production features a cast of UM theater students — "the best 16 performers that the program has," Shiller says — who've continued the process of honing Girls vs. Boys into a rock musical that could eventually travel to other parts of the country. Now, Shiller says, "the authors feel like the show is finished, and the audiences will tell us whether this is ready to go out into other cities and rock the rest of the U.S."
But for now, this Gen Z twist on the classic coming-of-age story belongs to the Magic City.
"Miami audiences will really enjoy the score... We've had The Who's Tommy, we've had Hedwig and the Angry Inch, we've had Spring Awakening, and we've had American Idiot," Shiller says. "This show feels like the next evolution in 2012 for rock 'n' roll in the theater.