The Marvelous Wonderettes

a kate west review
El Portal Forum Theatre,
5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601
running through November 2007 – Extended!

If you like pop melodies from the 1950’s and 60’s, you’ll love “The Marvelous Wonderettes”, an adorable and vivacious musical romp; it may not be big on plot, but it’s good family fun.

Cindy Lou, Betty Jean, Missy and Suzy are a quartet of singers who are the main entertainment at Springfield High School’s 1958 Senior Prom. They bicker and gossip constantly and in between sing crowd pleasers like ” Lollipop,” “Mr. Sandman,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “Mr. Lee,” “It’s My Party,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Respect,” to name but a few hummable melodies.

Scenic Designer Kurt Boetcher provides us with a colorful high school gymnasium, with streamers and refreshments and Costume Designer Sharell Martin dresses the girls in fun pastel dresses – 50’s style in the first act and 60’s in the second, both decades a visual delight. There is also some audience participation as one of the girls falls for Mr. Lee, a hapless male victim who will be serenaded on stage (beware the front row). We also get to “vote” for the Prom Queen.

The show itself showcases these four talented singers, in both the 1958 prom and in their 1968 ten year reunion. Solving all conflicts by the end, the girls end up as fast friends, just as they started out. Kristen Chandler is Cindy Lou, the informal leader and boyfriend-stealer of the group. Julie Dixon Jackson is Betty Jean (”B.J.), the headstrong and practical one. During this matinee performance, two understudies, Kara Shaw as Missy and Lowe Taylor as Suzy, round out the group. Each of them is a fine singer, Taylor belting and rocking out and Chandler crooning as sweet as any veteran folk singer. They all blend together very well in harmony, choreography and chemistry alike.Director Roger Bean (also the writer) uses the space well, placing his singers in various spotlight moments, well illuminated by Lighting Designer Jeremy Pivnick. Both offstage and on, it is obviously a well-rehearsed and professional show.

The plot is rather weak, however. Most of the scenes rivet around song lyrics and don’t delve too deeply into complex relationships. The girls have crushes, argue, pout and make up and that’s pretty much it. The show is really about scrumptious and nostalgic visuals, not any kind of story or morality. The talent is wonderful though and awfully fun so it’s a worthwhile evening. Make sure you check out the small details too, the various high school trophies in the lobby as well as the yummy candy. It’s almost like revisiting your own prom, if you happen to be of that particular era.

Get tickets now for the new holiday musical show!


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