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‘Girls’ really do just wanna have fun

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♦ June 22-Aug. 25
♦ Primary Nightclub, 5 W. Division

♦ Tickets, $45-$65

♦ (877) 386-6968;

Updated: June 20, 2012 6:52PM

Girls just wanna have fun. Ideally while it’s raining men.

That more or less sums up the premise (and the plot) for “Girls Night: The Musical,” an interactive revue wherein a clutch of gal pals convene for an evening of karaoke interspersed with talk about sex, men, motherhood and more sex. The show’s Chicago incarnation opens June 22 in the extensively rehabbed confines of Primary Nightclub at the hypotenuse of the Viagra Triangle.

“Girls Night” began its life 10 years ago on the other side of the Atlantic, when stay-at-home London mom Louise Roche, then 40, found herself “going crazy” caring for three children under age 4.

“I had been a television producer, but I gave it up to raise a family,” the author of “Girls Night” recalled. “By the time the oldest was 4, I was desperately looking for some way to get out of child care on Saturday mornings. So I decided to sit down and write this play. My husband would take the kids to McDonald’s for an hour and a half, and I’d have a sanity-saving time when I could focus on writing. The script kind of just fell out of me.”

When she had that script — wherein a quintet of women gather to sing, drink and celebrate a pending wedding — completed, Roche corralled a group of friends to perform the piece and rented out a small local auditorium. It was hardly a big-budget extravaganza.

“The theater sat 130. I had cast members who were crying at the idea of singing in public. But they all agreed to do it,” Roche said.

Roche decided to see what would happen if they put “Girls Night” in a bigger venue. She filled a 1,200-seat house. Her husband gave up his teaching job and became a full-time booking agent for the show which went on to play in Germany and South Korea in addition to runs off-Broadway as well as in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Philadelphia. That critics have been less than kind (Variety called the dialogue a “low-rent Mamma Mia!”; Entertainment Weekly advised patrons who valued “wit and insight” to steer clear) doesn’t have Roche and director Sonya Carter losing any sleep. Audience response has been raucously affirmative, says Carter, who walked away from a job as an investment manager for American Express in order to work full time on Girls Night.

“The music is fantastic,” Carter said of the 14-song set list that includes such infectious crowd pleasers as Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like a Woman,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero.”

“We break the fourth wall right away, and get people up and dancing. There’s five characters in the show and we hear it over and over — women relate to them. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard ‘I’m that character” or “I know that character’ from audience members,” Carter said.

Those five characters cover a range of personality types, all of whom encourage the audience to cut loose, dance and even sing along as the evening progresses. The bar remains open throughout the two-hour show.

“It always gets very noisy, in a good way,” Roche said. The noise comes from an overwhelmingly female audience, but the occasional XY type shows up once in a while.

“Men show up at their peril,” Carter said. “But from what I’ve seen, they enjoy it.”

Catey Sullivan is a local free-lance writer.

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