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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


The Marvelous Wonderettes

Also see John's review of Love Is Love

The Marvelous Wonderettes
Julie Kleiner, Tiana Checchia, Lisa Manuli and Amy Miller Brennan
Actors' Playhouse opens its 2009-2010 with the musical The Marvelous Wonderettes. Actors' Playhouse is the first regional producing theatre company outside of New York to receive the licensing rights for The Marvelous Wonderettes while it is still playing Off-Broadway. 

The first act takes us to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, where the four-girl group The Wonderettes (Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzy) have consented to be the evening's entertainment. Together they sing songs such as "Lollipop," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Allegheny Moon," and "Sincerely." Though using jukebox and radio hits of the 1950s, The Marvelous Wonderettes is not a revue, as the characters are fully developed with personalities and relationships. Songs are placed to reflect this as much as possible, and incorporated into the flow of the story line. Betty Jean angrily sings "Lipstick on Your Collar" when she suspects her boyfriend of kissing her best friend Cindy Lou. The two girls continue their competitive relationship as the bookishly maternal Missy tries to maintain order, and the bubbly Suzy flirts from on stage with her unseen new boyfriend who is running lights for their prom show.

The second act brings us back to Springfield High School for the girls' 10-year high school reunion. The year is 1968, and the hair, clothes and attitude of the girls have changed. As they reconnect in a return engagement as the entertainment for the reunion, they discover that they have not really changed much underneath it all. They ponder the devotion of their mates in "It's in His Kiss," and their need for freedom in "You Don't Own Me." Missy laments her boyfriend's fear of commitment in "Wedding Bell Blues," and Betty Jean laments love is general in "That's When the Tears Start" and "It's My Party." A once prissy Cindy Lou reveals her fondness for bad boys in "Leader of the Pack" and "Son of a Preacher Man" (one of the best sung moments in the show). A very pregnant and emotional Missy seeks what she is missing from her husband (her boyfriend from the first act—again running lights) in "Respect" and "Rescue Me." All ends happily as they wish each other and their reunion audience the best in the closing song "Thank You and Goodnight/Sincerely."

On the surface, this nostalgic show is just another blast from the past filled with hits from the '50s and '60s. This can be said of many jukebox musicals, however, so what make this one special? In this production, the actors and director have gone the extra mile to honor the intent of writer Roger Bean in giving us real characters capable of standing on their own without the aid of the songs in the show. All of the girls are given moments of acting and solo moments of song to showcase their talents. The juxtaposition of some of the sweet songs of the '50s vs. the gutsier songs of the '60s gives each a chance to show stylist versatility. The production has solid production values with great choreography and set, and wonderful costuming and wigs. From start to finish, The Marvelous Wonderettes is well sung enjoyable entertainment for the whole family.

The Marvelous Wonderettes was originally written by Roger Bean for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, where he also created the musicals The Andrews Brothers, Winter Wonderettes, Don't Touch That Dial!, Route 66, That's Amore, Life Could Be A Dream, Honky Tonk Laundry and Why Do Fools Fall In Love?. The Marvelous Wonderettes features musical arrangements by Brian William Baker, orchestrations by Michael Borth, and vocal arrangements by Roger Bean and Brian William Baker. In 2007 The Marvelous Wonderettes received the Los Angeles Ovations Award for Best Musical Intimate Theatre. It is currently playing Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in New York. For more information on the musical you may go to www.marvelouswonderettes.com.

The Marvelous Wonderettes appears through November 1, 2009 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.

Cast:
Cindy Lou Huffington: Amy Miller Brennan*
Suzy Simpson: Tiana Checcia*
Betty Jean Reynolds: Julie Kleiner*
Missy Miller: Lisa Manuli*

Crew:
Director: David Arisco
Musical Director: David Nagy
Choreography: Chrissi Ardito
Scenic Design: Sean McClelland,br>Lighting Design: Patrick Tennent
Sound Design: Alexander Herrin
Costume Design: Ellis Tillman
Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen*

*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


Photo: Alberto Romeu


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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