For years, the creatively ambitious team of Lauren Taslitz and Leigh Anna Reichenbach has been supplying parody lyrics for the Woman’s Club of Evanston’s annual benefit show. Encouraged by their success there, the two decided to collaborate on a truly original project. Thus, Join the Club!, the duo’s new musical, was born. Inspired by the philanthropy of their own group and the important friendships that have been established because of it, Join the Club! details what happens when Sara, a hotshot lawyer, must join up with a similar organization to build a local shelter. Sheridan Road, recently, sat down with the engaging Taslitz and Reichenbach to chat about the show’s genesis, its tantalizing focus on female empowerment, and why Skokie is truly better than Broadway any day of the week.
SR: Can you tell us how Join the Club! came about?
Reichenbach: We had written parody songs, for years, for the annual benefit for the Woman’s Club of Evanston. It became a natural progression where we, finally, decided there was probably more of a story to tell than just linking the songs from one to the next. We started formulating an arc. Eventually, we started taking a musical theater writing class with Cheri Coons, downtown.
Taslitz: We had already written the musical at that point.
Reichenbach: We had. (Laughing) Cheri told us everything that we needed to change.
Taslitz: We then had a fully staged equity workshop in January 2011, so we could see it on its feet. We got a really good response. We had a fabulous cast.
Reichenbach: As is this one!
SR: So, this has had a long gestation.
Taslitz: Yes, but we did it really quickly, initially. When we were trying to come up with a story from which to hang these songs, we came up with certain guidelines.
Reichenbach: We called them “The Rules!”
Taslitz: One was that this was something that was not going to end in a wedding. Another was that it was not going to be about men. Men weren’t going to ruin anything. Men weren’t going to save anybody. That isn’t what we wanted or were trying to do. It was really not about that. We wound up coming up with a story that really reflected our experience at the Woman’s Club of Evanston. It’s a story about a disparate group of women coming together who seem to have barely anything in common. But they get together and accomplish these great things. In the meantime, they form these great friendships and relationships, winding up with a group of people that really have each others’ backs.
SR: That’s been you’re experience with the Woman’s Club of Evanston?
Reichenbach: Definitely! I think when people think of a woman’s club, they think of something very exclusive and exclusionary. But women of all backgrounds and walks of life are encouraged to join this club. It’s definitely a large part of what inspired us.
Taslitz: Interestingly, when we say it’s an ensemble musical with five women in the cast, people often assume it’s going to be like Menopause, the Musical. But actually when I think about this, I think it’s much more like The Full Monty. The themes are similar. In The Full Monty, you have this group of guys who have something that they need to pull off…
Reichenbach: (Laughing) Literally and figuratively!
Taslitz: (Laughing) Right, literally and figuratively. But they wind up having these outsiders come into the fold and they do it. When you think about that group in The Full Monty, they have guys who are gay and the older black man and the woman piano player, but they get together and they do this thing. Ultimately, it’s sort of about having each others’ backs and it’s light and fun with some universal themes.
SR: Are the themes in your show things that men can relate to, as well?
Taslitz: Yes! We think of this as a musical with women not a musical for women. At the initial workshop, the responses from men were wonderful. They were surprised at how much they enjoyed it and related to it.
SR: The enjoyability factor, this time, will be enhanced by the location, as well. I understand the Skokie Theatre is just gorgeous.
Taslitz: Yes! It’s a lovely, lovely space. It’s so unexpected.
Reichenbach: It has a state of the art sound system and the theater is absolutely beautiful!
Taslitz: (Laughing): So, who needs Broadway when you have Skokie?
Reichenbach: It’s much closer…
Taslitz: …and way cheaper!