The Marvelous Wonderettes

At Northlight TheatreWonderettes_logo_cmyk

Written and directed by Roger Bean

Northlight cooks up a colorful winner to head their 35th season

Recipe for success:

  • Take four lovely, lithesome lassies with good, strong voices.
  • Garb them in fancy, full-skirted, pastel outfits – pink, orange, blue, and green (with matching shoes).
  • Set them on a purple stage in a Springfield High School gym, facing microphones trimmed with red hearts.
  • Bounce them off each other – mentally, musically, and physically — as they not only provide the entertainment for their 1958 high school prom, but also vie for the coveted role of Prom Queen.
  • Add audience participation by involving them in the vote.
  • And the result is a rousing, nostalgic, delightful evening of musical theater: the Chicago premiere of The Marvelous Wonderettes.

Meet the candidates for queen (a highly talented, all-Chicago cast): Cindy Lou Huffington (Dina DiConstanzo) a slim, lovely, vamp and Suzy Simpson (Cat Davis,) a perky uncomplicated blond in love with the lad who runs the stage lights. Missy Miller (Laura Taylor) is a lanky redhead seeking love, and Betty Jean (B.J.) Reynolds (Tempe Thomas), acts out as a feisty maverick who nearly steals the show with her obstreperous behavior as she triggers hostile responses from her buddies.  Teen gossip, romance and hijinks contribute to the nostalgic angst.

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The songs are terrific and enhanced by clever choreography as the four move across the stage in ever-varying configurations. They belt out 50’s and 60’s favorites including such well-known tunes as “It’s My Party,” “Mr. Sandman,” “Lollypop,” “Leader of the Pack” “You Don’t Own Me,” and “Dream Lover.” Playwright/director Roger Bean has cleverly intertwined the plot line with highly appropriate songs. As the girls – singly and in medley — sing of their current loves and losses, never have lyrics been more appropriate or more reflective of the time in which they were written.

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With ever gathering suspense, Act I builds to a great climax –the announcement of the Winner. In fact, this is such a heightened moment, that at intermission, several of the audience thought the play had ended and only swift intervention by aware ushers caught them in time.

Because it was such a climax, and because nothing in the play publicity reveals more, it would be a spoiler to relate just what happens in Act II. Suffice to say that this act provides a second hour of foot stomping music, even lovelier pastel costumes, and revealed relationships.

The pop musical has been playing to a sold-out house off Broadway since September 14, 2008, and Northlight chose this hit to celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary – likening it to a season’s kick-off party that offers “joyous, ebullient reminiscences.” It was a sterling choice.

Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Beverly Friend

friend@oakton.edu

This review also posted on http://mytheaterclub.com/articles.php

At Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, call 847- 673- 6300, or online at Northlight.org. tickets $39-54, young adults (25 and under) $10 (per person with valid ID), Tuesdays through Thursdays 7:30 pm., Fridays and Saturdays 8 pm., Sundays 7 pm., Wednesdays 1 pm., Saturdays and Sundays 2:30 pm. Running time is 2 hours (with intermission), through Nov.1, 2009.

Editor’s Note: I agree with Beverly Friendsreview of The Marvelous Wonderettes completely. I grew up with my sister (who was 3 years older than me) as she loved these bubble gum pop-rock songs. They bring back those innocent times. This is a nostalgic show and a fine way to introduce those cute tunes to a new generation.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Date Reviewed: September 26, 2009


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