The Marvelous Wonderettes - Tuneful ‘50s Memories
By Bob And Karen Isaacs
It is 1958 in the high school gymnasium of a small town (Springfield) somewhere in rural America. It is the high school senior prom - back in the days when proms were held in gyms not glamorous catering halls. The requisite number of teachers and the principal are present.
But the entertainment for the evening, is the high school's very own "girl group" who bill themselves as "The Marvelous Wonderettes." They are there because the lead singer of the scheduled boy-group got suspended from school for, gasp! smoking.
The four girls are best friends but that doesn't mean that during the course of their songs a fair amount of teenage anxiety and jealous come out. There's Betty Jean (Paige Neal) who wears her emotions on her sleeve and is more the class clown. She found lipstick on her boy friend's collar that matches the shade worn by Cindy Lou (Melissa Robinette) the class siren. They are also self-professed "best friends."
Then there is Missy (Danielle Erin Rhodes) who takes her gum out to sing and is constantly waving to her boy friend who is running the lights. Finally there is Suzy (Alanna Wilson) who is the mother hen of the group.
In the first act, the various rivalries and angst comes out as all four girls (plus one other who is not there) vie to be named Prom Queen. They sing a variety of '50s songs in the close harmony made popular during the period by the Chordettes and the Maguire Sisters.
You'll recognize the songs -- "Mr. Sandman," "Allegheny Moon," "Dream Lover," "Lipstick on Your Collar," and others. So far so good.
The second act - supposedly at the 10 years class reunion (1968) - continues their stories but less successfully. And the music is less successful; too much of it not as recognizable as in the first half. Plus, though it is plausible that the girls would be singing nostalgia, you keep expecting more of the late '60s hits.
The four performers are all very good - they create both the characters and the harmonies reminiscent of the period. You will have your own favorite for Prom Queen -- the audience does get to vote.
John Sebastian DeNicola does an admirable job as both director, musical director, and on the night we saw the show, one of the musicians.
Roger Bean, who created and wrote the show and co-arranged the music with Brian William Baker, obviously enjoys the period. His other shows include revues called The Andrews Brothers, Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Route 66 and a follow up to The Marvelous Wonderettes -- Winter Wonderettes
The Marvelous Wonderettes is at the Ivoryton Playhouse through Oct. 16. For tickets and information contact the Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers Oct. 13, 2011 and online at Zip06.com.