Howard’s second musical, Girlfriends, was first performed at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre, in May 1986. Howard wrote the music and lyrics, based on the book he had written in collaboration with Richard Curtis and John Retallack. Girlfriends is cast for twelve women and two men, with a band of six, and is set on an RAF Bomber Command base during World War 2. Its first cast included Maria Friedman, Andrew C Wadsworth, Jenna Russell and Carla Mendonca. Its season in Oldham was a sell-out, with enthusiastic reviews and audiences.
Girlfriends was substantially revised and produced in October 1987 at the re-opened Playhouse Theatre in London, starring Hazel O’Connor and David Easter, but the show was later reworked along the lines of its Oldham version in 1992 and performed at the Arts Theatre. It received its US première in May 2003. Read the Washington Post review here. The US version of Girlfriends was performed again in the summer of 2004 in Arlington, VA, as part of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, World War II Memorial Dedication Celebration, America Celebrates the Greatest Generation betweenJuly 9 – August 1, 2004. The work received it’s Dutch première (in Dutch) in 2008.
From 7th June – 1st July in 2011 All Star Productions presented a revival of the musical at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Walthamstow. Some reviews of this production can be found here & here & here & here & here. In the same year it was also performed Splott AOS at St Teilo’s High School Cardiff, Wales (27-29 October).
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts performed Girlfriends in September 2012. Click here to visit the Mountview Academy’s website.
Here Howard explains what motivated him to write Girlfriends… “Since my first musical The Hired Man was dominated by men, I felt I needed to redress the balance by finding a subject in this second piece that would be mainly about women, so when I read Mary Lee Settle’s brilliant autobiographical account of her wartime experiences in the WAAF, All the Brave Promises, I suspected I might have found my subject. All the Brave Promises itself would not easily have adapted to a dramatic form, so I began to research the subject in a general way, reading WAAF diaries, plundering the RAF archives for every scrap they had on the WAAF, talking to ex-WAAF and reading the scanty published material that exists on the subject. Eventually, in collaboration with John Retallack, a story and form began to emerge for Girlfriends…..” (More of Howard’s thoughts on writing this musical can be found here)