Cheery and sweet The Marvelous Wonderettes arrives just in time for Valentine's Day
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, January 30, 2023
What better to transport us back in time than sequins, song leaders, and a trip to the prom? The Welk Resort Theater is doing just that with their newest production, The Marvelous Wonderettes, running now through March 26.
A cheery jukebox musical from Roger Bean (known also for his all-male show Forever Plaid), The Marvelous Wonderettes features four high school song leaders in their big debut: their senior prom. The show introduces Suzy, Missy, Betty Jean, and Cindy Lou (Megan Carmitchel, Alessa Neek, Chelsea Franko, and Ariella Kvashny), who have recently been offered the chance to serenade the class of 1958 at the big event, thanks to a cigarette-related suspension in the glee club. As they navigate a set of 1950s standards and get closer and closer to the crowning of the prom queen, the girls’ interpersonal relationships (and challenges therein) are on full display. The second act features a return to their high school gymnasium for a 10-year reunion.
This production is thoroughly entertaining, well cast, and cleanly blocked by original Wonderette and local director/actor Bets Malone. Malone has selected four dynamic performers who are able to very adorably infuse their characters’ unique personalities into their songs and interactions. Cindy Lou is the sexy one, Betty Jean is all school spirit and spitfire, Missy is the rule-follower of the group, and Suzy is bubbly and effervescent… and when the four of them are together, smiles and laughter abound. The group pours energy into the comedy, drama, and even audience participation components of the show, and then pairs them with a love-themed playlist that is music directed by Elan McMahan.
The four actors are costumed delightfully in fit-and-flare 50s frocks and heels, coiffed wigs, and matching accessories, which shift, following intermission, to sequins, chiffon, and go-go boots in each Wonderette’s signature color. As the second act high school reunion kicks off, the playlist leans into nostalgic 1960s classics which, though not quite as harmonically tight as in the first half, are delightful nevertheless. That said, I would love to see some casting diversity for a show that features tunes made famous by Fontella Bass and Aretha Franklin.
The show also features a fun high school gym-esque scenic design by Loryn Cook at The Brown Studio, sound design by Jordan Gray, and lighting design by Jennifer Edwards Northover, as well as simple but charming specialty props by James Vasquez and David Engel.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is sweet, light fare that recalls eras past in a way that will charm and delight; the production plays at The Welk through March 26.