Girlfriends reviews 1986-2018

British November 2014 (Union Theatre revival), Stephen Collins:

“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.

In the programme, Goodall notes:

My musical experiment was to see if I could – on stage – make of this world a contrapuntal polyphony, that is to say, a vocal tapestry consisting of interweaving, many-layered voice lines, one upon another, rather as one might expect in 16th century choral music.

Goodall’s experiment succeeds unquestionably. The score is rich in melody and contrapuntal texture and in the skilled hands of Freddie Tapner is played with assurance and sung with passion, clarity and musical purpose.

Goodall is also responsible for the lyrics, and they, too, are excellent.
This is the strongest of the three Goodall offerings the Union has produced this year. Tapner’s musical direction, an excellent cast led by Catherine Mort, and a vibrant, tuneful and polyphonic score combine to produce a real theatrical treat. This is one of the best musical productions at the Union Theatre in the last five years – and its standard and value underlines the importance of the continued existence of the Union Theatre.”


Broadway World UK Nov 2018, Louis Train- LMTO Concert production at Bishopsgate Institute:    “It seems they’ve found the winning formula: LMTO’s Girlfriends is musical dynamite, a burst of energy and passion and very, very good singing….”


Musical Theatre Review Nov 2018 (Star rating: five stars):  “With a five star cast led by Lucie Jones and Lauren Samuels this performance is unmissable. If you by some chance you can’t get along, then it’s being recorded live for release on CD

With new orchestrations by librettist, composer and lyricist Howard Goodall along with Simon Nathan, to hear the cast of nine women and two men sing this beautiful score is a real joy….

Goodall’s score of choral numbers interspersed with ballads and duets gives us a feast of great singing. March tempos intervene, as in Wofford’s ‘Jump’, we hear echoes of Glenn Miller. And then we get great ballads and duets, such as ‘Save My Life a Second Time’ and ‘Remember You Wanted Me’. With 25 listed numbers, one longs to hear them all again.”


Love London Love Culture Nov 2018, Emma Clarendon: “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”


London Theatre Nov 2018 John Groves *****: “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? The good thing is that if you were not lucky enough to see it, all three performances have been recorded and will be released in various formats in 2019.”


the music remains hypnotically beautiful” Michael Toscano, The Washington Post May 2003

“..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 TimesOctober 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.

Key information:

Text: Howard Goodall

Première: May, 1986, Oldham Coleseum Theatre: (cast included) Maria Friedman/Jenna Russell/Carla Mendonca

Availability: Performance materials available on hire from Faber Music (; rights licensed by Faber Music Copyright Dept (