Celebrating GRL PWR at the Fringe Festival

Culture Theatre
Photo provided.

Hey! Do you like 90s girl bands? Are you interested in a comprehensive history of feminism from the 1900s to today? What about seeing the evolution of girl groups from the 1900s to the 90s through the lense of feminism? Then GRL PWR is the perfect Victoria Fringe Festival show for you. 

GRL PWR — short for girl power — is a musical celebration of the best of girl groups and how they present feminism to their audience, from the Andrew Sisters to the Spice Girls.

“It’s some kind of combo-platter of 90s sleepover, PBS education kids show, [and a] 90s girl group concert review,” said Sadie Evans, the producer of GRL PWR and member of Saltines, the group behind it.

Of course, there’s the Salt-n-Pepa and TLC, but there’s also the work of some solo artists showcased in GRL PWR

“[Girl groups weren’t] the only thing happening for women in music in the 90s,” said Evans. “There was Courtney Love, Alanis Morrisette — it was like a hub of women producing art that was talking about the female experience.”

There’s a great fem-medley near the end of the show that features a bunch of near-and-dear 90s pop hits that everyone in the audience will know by heart.

The whole show is a rush of ‘nostalgia-edutainment’ presented in a fun, easily digestible format with so much high energy that it’s infectious. I may or may not have been singing along to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls, and took part in the standing/dancing ovation at the end. 

While the show is a celebration of girl groups, it takes a critical look at the media 90s kids grew up with and breaks down the recurring themes that you hear in the music. The show helps us understand and conceptualize with a live performance how girl bands transformed from groups like the Andrew Sisters into the Spice Girls. 

The set is an arrangement of props that creates the air of a sleepover as the performers rush and change costumes on stage, while one person is left to discuss the next major theme or introduce the next chapter of the performance. 

“It’s got that chaotic trunk-style feel to it, which I think has a sleepover vibe to it,” says Emilee Nimetz, a member of the Saltines and performer.

They definitely make it work — the high-energy is front and centre, and mesmerizing to watch unfold. The action is just non-stop, like a marathon, but in the best way.

GRL PWR was inspired by the musical Six, a story about the six wives of Henry the Eighth banding together to form a girl group. Evans who saw this show while studying the history of feminism in university, decided to go on to create GRL PWR with the Saltines. 

While Evans was the writer, it’s easy to say that everyone involved in the show had a part in shaping the final product. 

“That’s our style with the Saltines, when we get together, we know we want to perform this song, sometimes someone takes the reigns, sometimes it’s like let’s work on this together and come up with ideas.”

While this Fringe show is educational, it’s also so much fun that I cannot recommend seeing it highly enough.