Thursday 8 September 2016 7:28 pm

Vanities is a hilarious musical comedy charting the life journeys of three cheerleaders

Vanities is a musical comedy that follows the fate of three childhood friends, from their days as boundlessly energetic cheerleaders in a Dallas high school in the mid-1960s to their lives as three very different adult women. Mary, Joanne and Kathy each have their own clear aspirations for the future, but shared among them is the idea that their bond of friendship will last forever, and a very vocal fear that their teenage popularity might one day wane.

Joanne (Lizzy Connolly) is the most hilarious of the three, a god-fearing, abstinence-practicing, naive-seeming Texan who wants little more than to marry her high school sweetheart and start popping out sprogs. Mary (Lauren Samuels) is a capricious tearaway who’s often the target of Joanne’s disapproval, while Kathy (Ashleigh Gray) is the group’s lynchpin and a hyper-organised planner.

Drama and tension unfolds between the trio as their journeys into adulthood see their expectations for life half-met, but the real entertainment in Vanities is to be found in the interactions and dialogue between the evolving women. The instantly catchy songs are brilliantly performed in the tiny basement stage at Trafalgar Studios, and the sharp script is full of warmth and carried off with superb comic timing and wit. The staging is interesting too given the limitations of the small space. The characters return to three vanity mirrors at the beginning and end of each act, preening and pouting and reflecting on their changing appearances, while the surrounding shelves slowly accumulate the detritus of passing years. 

An overly poignant final act is a little too doleful for an otherwise sparky and upbeat show, and follows on from a few incongruous, Hollyoaks-grade plot twists, but the chemistry on stage is infectiously sweet and unexpectedly engaging. You’ll come away feeling fuzzy and lovely.