Review: Good Girl

Post Modern Cabaret

Review | By Norah Pendergast

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Good Girl

Trailside Music Hall

April 20

In two lavish sets of music and monologue, Melissa MacKenzie gives a courageous  performance of her story growing up as a “Good Girl” evangelical Christian in PEI and the challenges her puritanical foundation caused when she arrived in the irreverent atmosphere of theatre school.

The comedy is rich as she recounts her experience, with the air of young Ann Margaret, she finds herself cast in all the sexy roles. Humour masks the awkwardness and distress of dating and sexuality as the confines of her belief system shatter and she gains autonomy and emphatically rewrites herself as the protagonist of her life.

The show featured performers Melissa MacKenzie (writer, vocals, keys), Morgan Saulnier (piano), Jessica Burrett (vocals, percussion), Brielle Ansems (vocals, guitar), Morgan Wagner (vocals, violin, percussion) and Marlee Saulnier (saxophone). Chris Coupland was on sound and lights.

MacKenzie’s extraordinary vocal range is animated by Morgan Saulnier on piano. Brielle Ansems, Morgan Wagner and Jessica Burrett endow ensemble pieces with graceful power. The vocal harmonies and commanding stage presence of this chorus support the music and narrative of liberation.

The Trailside Music Hall’s evocative 1940s décor is the perfect setting for this musical reclamation of femininity.

Classic selections like “Getting Married Today,” “Don’t Tell Mama,” and “Quando m’en va,” embody the legacy of female leads subverting gender expectations on stage, a tradition MacKenzie expands upon.

Originally sequestered in a fragile purity, then thrust into the sexually charged atmosphere of theatre school, with a holy trifecta of, “anxiety, shame and type A personality,” Melissa vividly narrates the depths of her psyche. The grace at the core of her being empowers unrelenting confidence that culminates in a delightful mastery of her own fate.

The impulse to own your story and evolve is a testimony that emanates from all the musicians who take the stage. Highlights of the show include Melissa’s original songs, especially “Out Here,” about sitting on the deck at Baba’s lounge, hiding from acquaintances and small talk after a pandemic forced homecoming.

A silver lining of the pandemic, Melissa has relocated home and local audiences can look forward to seeing her Charlottetown Festival debut this summer in Dear Rita! at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

MacKenzie proves that pausing tourist industry favourites on Island stages is far from tragic; this summer our theatres have the profound opportunity to repossess local talent and diverse contemporary storytelling, like Kit Bag Theatre’s Good Girl.