By Beki Pineda
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES. Written by Roger Bean; directed by Kris Graves. Produced by Performance Now Theatre Company (presented at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood) through Sept. 24, 2017. Tickets available at 303-987-7845 or www.lakewood.org/CulturalCenter/.
What FOREVER PLAID is to ’50s boy groups, THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES is to ’50s girl groups. Four high school girls have formed the group and are performing at the prom because the guy group that was supposed to perform got suspended when the leader got caught smoking. He’s such a butthead! Betty Jean (Melanie Horton) is the cut-up, always teasing and pranking the others. Suzy (Anne Jenness) is the giggly one with a wad of gum in her mouth, in love with the guy running the lights. Cindy Lou (Alisa Metcalf) is the pretty one who just happens to have caught the eye of Betty Jean’s boyfriend. And Missy (Caitlin Zigler) is the leader of the group and always calming the arguments and keeping everyone focused on the music. “Eyes, people!” Together they are the Wonderettes—oh, wait, the Marvelous Wonderettes. Strike a pose!
The girls all have lovely voices for both solo performances and harmonizing quartets. The first act takes place in 1958 and features bouncy songs like “Mr. Sandman,” “Lollipop” and “Stupid Cupid.” The songs are interspersed with little stories that reveal the characters of the girls, their love lives and aspirations. One girl is chosen by the audience as the Prom Queen for that year.
Act Two takes place 10 years later at their high school reunion. Their lives have not exactly turned out the way they hoped. The music takes a little darker turn with songs like “That’s When the Tears Start,” “It’s My Party,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Rescue Me.” But their friendship and the music carry them through. They face the next 10 years with hope in their hearts.
Audience alert: Choose your seats carefully as one poor man in the audience becomes their Mr. Lee and gets dragged on the stage for a couple of songs.
I have to admit that jukebox musicals are probably my least favorite form of entertainment. But this is music from my era and it was easy to get lost in the memories. Director Kris Graves managed to infuse the light script with little revealing character bits for each of the girls that added greatly to the humor of the evening. Kudos also to choreographer Jeffrey Parizotto for not allowing the tiniest hint of modern-dance steps to invade his routines for these ladies of the ’50s and ’60s. There’s not one instance of jazz hands or hip thrusts, which would have been entirely too vulgar for these girls.
As I’ve mentioned before, maintaining the appropriate sound balance between an onstage band and the singers is one of the hardest parts of a sound design. Under the guidance of Michael Bowerman, the musical accompaniment to this performance managed to provide backup to the singers without overpowering them. The band kept the style of the ’50s alive and added their own funny bits of business to the frivolities. Performance Now has worked hard over the years to attract and keep the best-of-show musicians who always provide a suitable live accompaniment to the fun on stage.
For those of us who love the music of the ’50s, this is a sweet walk down memory lane lovingly translated by Performance Now.
WOW factor: 8.5