Girl Power!

The Australian import Virgins is actually a bit misleading, as this musical only partially addresses its titular subject matter. Presented at the New York Musical Theater Festival, it is really more of a triptych to reflect the diverse talents of its quintet of female leads, the equally talented Esther Hannaford, Rosemarie Harris, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Amanda Levy, and Kellie Rode. Musicians Mathew Frank and Dean Bryant (who also directs) have delivered this show from Down Under, with mixed results. The first act, "Virgin Wars," sets the tone for a juvenile show with its portrait of five crusading cheerleader types who tour praising the joys of abstinence. But there's more than meets the eye, as it turns out that several of these ladies may not be practicing exactly what they preach. Frank and Bryant's bubblegum pop tunes (very similar to the stylings of Off-Broadway's Altar Boys) serve the act well.

This type of fun gets distinctly older, though not exactly more mature, in the second act, "Girl on the Screen," in which an investigative journalist tries to go inside the world of a seedy sex site and finds herself intrigued by the very world she was trying to expose. It allows all the actresses to indulge in their sultry side, a marked difference from the high schoolers they portrayed just minutes ago. Clearly, all five are very talented and possess a lot of range, but this sketch (in which cast members even act out the computer icons of an instant message chat) is a little thin. It is also completely different in tone and subject matter from what the show marketed itself to be.

The same can be said of the third act, which makes Virgins an overlong revue instead of one solid piece. "Jumping the Q" is a fictional re-enactment of a pageant where four female contestants from war-torn, developing countries compete for Australian citizenship. Not only does that make the work feel remote for a U.S. audience, but the message of solidarity gets a little muddled, despite some catchy power ballads. These girls have great voices that should be heard, but perhaps when singing a more coherent tune.

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