The two-day workshop/staged reading event of “Vanishing Girl,” with music and lyrics by William Yanesh and book by Hope Villanueva, certainly lived up to the hype. From the endearing story of a young woman struggling to find her place to the uplifting and often humorous lyrics, the creative team, actors, and crew really brought this production together. Given that their sights are set on increasingly bigger and better things for this “little musical that could,” the potential trajectory of the play itself seems to mirror the hopes and dreams of its characters.
…a foot-tapping, light-hearted musical and yet one that has some very big and bold things to say.
The story of “Vanishing Girl” borrows from some fairly common tropes, generously dipping into the superhero pool for inspiration. You have the curious origin story—that which gives birth to Vanishing Girl’s (a.k.a. Luciana’s) powers. In this case, a malfunctioning “open” sign on a comic book storefront. Luciana attempts to fix said sign and this is where all the superhero fun begins. You also have the notable sidekick, Luciana’s best friend Mason. There’s the hard-to-attain love interest, Taima and the consequent romance that unfolds—complete with a nod to the scene in the original Superman movie where the “Man of Steel” takes Lois Lane on her inaugural superhero flight. Much appreciation for the musical creators’ move here to extract the “man” part of the equation and make the focus two women. It is a love story absolutely perfect for this production and for this time period. Of course, what would any superhero saga be without a villain of some sort, potentially one capable of being redeemed. Shop Troll represents the perfect ideological foil in this Vanishing Girl universe.
It’s not necessarily the story per se that we cling to as we cheer on Vanishing Girl and her cast of engaging and creative friends, as much as it is the ideas that we come to embrace. Those ideas marshal on both the plot and characters—the power of voice; the necessity of friendship in an at times isolating world; and the importance of diverse viewpoints to shake up an otherwise impenetrable club of privilege and exclusivity. You leave the theatre with the understanding that, yes, you saw a foot-tapping, light-hearted musical and yet one that has some very big and bold things to say.
As for the acting, kudos across the board. Julieta Gozalo’s portrayal of Luciana is both endearing and, on occasion, infuriating as in you just want to snap your fingers and wake this girl up. Along with her friend Mason (a truly entertaining performance by Carl L. Williams), you’re frustrated with Luciana’s unwillingness to believe in what she is truly capable of—a problem far too many young women seem to have today. Tayla Sindel as Taima makes her mark as a thoughtfully powerful force in her own right, even without all the superpowers. Other notable performances include Taylor Witt as the Shop Troll you love to hate, and Sunita Param as shopkeeper Farioz who is a sobering force amid the younger characters’ constantly in flux self-perceptions.
While “Vanishing Girl” is in its early stages yet, Eric Jordan Young’s direction helps it seem a far more mature production than its two performances thus far would suggest. Yanesh’s musical numbers cleverly augment the play’s major themes and also serve to further define all of characters’ strengths and idiosyncrasies. You come to know them better through song. When fully fleshed out, “Vanishing Girl,” I have little doubt, will be a can’t-miss musical delineating a generation’s need to make their mark, thus ensuring that people hear what they have to say.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
“Vanishing Girl” was performed on January 28 and 29, 2023 presented by Flying V at Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910. For more information on Flying V and upcoming shows, go online. Masks were required for all ticket holders.