GIRLFRIENDS premièred at the Oldham Coliseum in May 1986 and subsequently at the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End in October 1987. It has since been seen in revivals in the UK (it returned to the West End for a short run in 1992, and off-West End in 2014), Australia, The Netherlands (its Dutch language première was at the Fontys Musical Academy in Tilburg in 2008) and the USA, where in July & August 2004 it formed part of the Women in Military Service for America, World War II Memorial Dedication & Celebration, America Celebrates the Greatest Generation at the Arlington National Cemetery.
In November 2018 it was revived in a special concert presentation by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, at the Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London, conducted by Freddie Tapner, with new orchestrations by Simon Nathan. Its cast featured West End stars (Lucie Jones, Lauren Samuels, Natasha Barnes, Vikki Stone, Rob Houchen, Bronté Barbé, Lizzie Wofford, Chris McGuigan, Charlotte Clitherow, Lisa Bridge and Tara Divina) and was narrated by Group Captain Vicky Gosling OBE.
“..a blazingly dramatic score. Mr. Goodall has a wonderful gift for reflecting situation in melody. It rises effortlessly to the occasion for ardour, grief and protest.”
Irving Wardle, The Times October 1987
“Goodall has come up with some splendid choral numbers, expressive of joy, grief and, above all, the will to win.”
Francis King, The Sunday Telegraph October 1987
“Mr. Goodall has been dealt a strong Parryesque hand as a composer. The music itself is sinewy, rich, trumpet-dominated, and distinctive.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian October 1987
“He excels at the orchestral accumulation of narrative power – making classical use of Bach-boogie, Forties’ harmonies, instrumental continuo and obligato, which colour and enrich the score throughout.” Michael Ratcliffe, The Observer October 1987
“Mr. Goodall lets rip with some robust canticles of war, and his instinct for recasting syncopated dance forms (Beguine, Tarantella, Rumba) in a scheme most resembling baroque oratorio.” Michael Coveney, The Financial Times October 1987.
“LMTO’s revival of the work ‘in concert’ proves that it contains much of his best music: very melodic, sumptuous, often complex, romantic in style, almost a late twentieth-century operetta. There is a lot of music as well, over 140 minutes, but it never seems one moment too long owing to the variety of Goodall’s imagination… This was a superb evening of theatre and music. The question is: why has this show been allowed to disappear for the last 32 years?
John Groves, London Theatre November 2018
“The music remains hypnotically beautiful”
Michael Toscano, The Washington Post May 2003
“The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s latest concert performance brings to life the glorious score of Howard Goodall’s Girlfriends, complete with an all-star cast who capture the courage and strength of the women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in World War II with great passion…..a beautifully performed show that captures the dangers and suffering that those involved with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force went through – while at the same time giving a real sense of the strength of the bond between all of the characters. This is particularly highlighted during numbers such as ‘The Darkness is Now Their Friend’ and ‘Uniform’, offering beautiful harmonies that convey the sense of pride, determination, underlined with fear and grief”
Emma Clarendon, Love London Love Culture, November 2018
“Goodall is rather an unsung hero of British musicals. His work is ambitious, interesting and often very powerful, but he has never had the sort of attention which, say, Alan Bennett or David Hare have had from the National Theatre, but his work is as important as theirs and covers wide spectrums and styles, as does theirs. This is not to say Goodall has not had great success – he has – but what greater success could his works have had if the care and expense lavished on The Light Princess had been utilised in honing and refining his works? As the production of Girlfriends now playing at the Union Theatre (direction by Bronagh Lagan, Musical direction by Freddie Tapner and Choreography by Iona Holland) amply demonstrates, Goodall has a mastery over melody and composition which is rare in musical theatre these days. The score has a vision and a unity which is utterly engrossing and delightful; and it is overflowing with female voices, a rare treat in itself.”
Stephen Collins, British Theatre.com November 2014
Operetta Research Centre review of LMTO’s Girlfriends live recording at Bishopsgate Institute is here.