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Released in 1991, the album “Girlfriend” is the third studio album released by Matthew Sweet to critical acclaim. Years after that release, playwrights Todd Almond and Sweet reimagined the record into a full-length musical love story with an LGBTQ twist, a local production of which is slated to play at The Detroit Public Theatre from March 21 through April 14.
Set in the ’90s, the story follows Mike and Will, the only two cast members, as they explore their own lives, their ideas of first love and what lessons they’ve learned from high school. BTL reached out to the show’s director, Joe Bailey, in advance of the show’s local debut to get a sneak peek at what to expect before it hits the stage.
When did you hear you would be directing the show?
The lovely ladies at Detroit Public Theatre asked me to direct it. It was last year, I don’t remember exactly when it was, [but it was around] spring of 2018, and I knew the show. I remember when it first premiered, I think it was in Berkeley, and I was intrigued by it because I listened to Matthew Sweet’s album “Girlfriend” which I was a huge fan of in the early ‘90s. And just having a show called “Girlfriend” based on that album made about two high school boys that fall in love, I was very intrigued with the whole thing. So, when the opportunity arose, I was just over the moon.
Having been a fan of Sweet’s work beforehand, did you ever consider the record to be an LGBTQ-themed love story?
Never, which is really what was so amazing and intriguing to me about it.
What are you excited about most in directing this musical?
I’m thrilled with how things are progressing, and it being set in the early ‘90s. So, we have production meetings every week. Things are coming together and it’s fun to check in with all the designers and see how the project has been made and it’s been great. It’s a great design team and I’m very excited to be working at the Detroit Public Theatre. So far, it’s all been great and I have no worries about it going any other way.
What are you hoping audiences will be able to see in this reimagination of the original work?
I guess, looking at things differently, I’m a fan of that. Also, I guess, seeing what they may know in a different way is something that is really intriguing to me. And it’s just about love, who doesn’t like love? If they come in and even if they know the music or not, I hope that they will just walk away happy.
Since the show has only two people in the cast, it lends itself to an intimate look at these two characters. Are you excited about that and have you directed anything like this before?
I’ve directed a lot of things, but I don’t think I have done a two-person show. I’ve been in one-person shows but I don’t think I’ve directed two-person shows, so no, it’s a first for me. The whole thing is just full of excited potential. The crew and cast are really lovely and they both sing like angels and I’m really excited about it.