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The Marvelous Wonderettes
When a musical has been extended as many times as this one, you gotta get over to the Valley and find out why. Following in the prancing footsteps of Forever Plaid about a boy quartet who sang 1950s songs and played the White House twice at the invitation of the first President Bush, Wonderettes takes us to a 1958 Springfield High School prom with entertainment provided by the eponymous girl quartet. A gossamer story line is spun around the songs of the period, following the girls as they shout out to their boyfriends, express their adoring crush on their Chipmunks Song Leader coach Mr. Lee and compete, sulkily, for Prom Queen. The second act takes place at their class reunion ten years later, which gives author/director Roger Bean an excuse for a lot of 1968 numbers, mostly focusing on the down side of love.
Produced by David Elzer and Peter Schneider, the production, designed by Kurt Boetcher, at El Portal Forum Theatre has the genuine look of a high school gym, complete with streamers and that tacky punch table. The girls' costumes are a little too intricate to pass for homemade (credit Costume Designer Sharell Martin) but the sherbet colors are genuine.
The quartet includes Kirsten Chandler as Cindy Lou, the pretty one, who gets off on snagging her girlfriends' boyfriends; Julie Dixon Jackson as Betty Jean, the jealous clown; and, at the performance viewed, understudies Kara Shaw as mousy bespectacled Missy and Lowe Taylor as blonde child-like Suzy.
The voices are far better than any girl group ever had and all the actresses are talented. Chandler is the most successful at making her teen-ager natural, unlike the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cliche. Jackson, a highly skilled actress, indulges in the temptation to let herself go as BJ and she goes way over the top. However, her wonderful belting voice makes this forgiveable. Shaw got a lot of votes for Prom Queen for her warmth and likeability, not that it mattered as the Queen election was rigged by the author. Taylor has an endearing gawky exuberance.
The songs range from the lovely and hilarious interpretation of "Allegheny Moon" to "You Don't Own Me". Most of them, including the ballads, are belted with overtones of humor. Bean's production is sprightly, broadly funny and never lags. It may not make you want to be in love with The Leader of the Pack but, whatever your era, it nudges memories of when life was lived by what one composer called "tunes like coins that jingle in your pocket.&!"
Editor:s Note:Pictures of the Wonderettes plus lots of trivia can be found at theor My Space location: www.myspace.com/marvelouswonderettes
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater