TR Robertson – After a nine-month layoff since their last theatrical performance, the Theatre at the Welk in Escondido has reopened with the award winning, energetic, funny, foot-stomping jukebox musical The Marvelous Wonderettes, written and directed by Roger Bean. This successful Off-Broadway hit features over 30 songs from the 50’s and 60’s sung by four talented female performers. Bean is said to have written the musical in honor of his mother, who was a song leader in her high school. He also wrote the popular all-male musical, set in the 50’s and 60’s, Forever Plaid.
The Marvelous Wonderettes opening also features the return of Vista resident Bets Malone who directed The Theatre at the Welk performance and who has previously directed the musical and was in the original opening of the musical in Milwaukee in 1999 playing the role of Suzy. She also starred in that role in the Los Angeles production in 2006 and in the Off-Broadway production in 2008.
The musical is set in 1958 at the Springfield High School Super Senior Prom called Marvelous Dreams. Four best friends and members of the song leading squad have stepped in to perform at the prom because the boy’s glee club, the Crooning Crabcakes, lead singer, Billy Ray Patton, was suspended for smoking. The Wonderettes are made up of Betty Jean Reynolds, Cindy Lou Huffington, Suzy Simpson and Missy Miller. The girls are dressed in their best crinoline skirts as they step on the stage and open their act with “Mr. Sandman”. Betty Jean is an outspoken member of the group who is having a fight with Cindy Lou who stole her boyfriend, Cindy Lou also has sights on being the Prom Queen, Suzy is a gum chewing, excitable member of the group and Missy is the glue that holds the group together when conflict arises. Missy also has a dreamcatcher the girls use to find out about their relationships and to decide on who sings next.
The first half of the musical features the girls singing together and in a number of solo routines as the audience becomes the students attending the Super Senior Prom. The members of the audience become the French teacher Miss McPherson and one lucky male member of the audience is chosen to become Mr. Lee, a teacher. Vern Burns, a Champagne Village resident and popular community member, was selected to be the “lucky” Mr. Lee. The audience is also asked to take part in voting for the Prom Queen, with a funny explanation from Suzy. Occasionally the girls go into the audience to interact with them and at time the audience is asked questions. Throughout the musical audience members can be seen singing along with the nostalgic songs.
In the second half of the musical, the year is 1968 and the girls have been asked by Principal Varney to perform at the 10 year reunion. It is here we begin to hear about where life has taken them through the past 10 years. We hear about the ups and downs of what they have gone through. The music is now from the 60’s. Many of the conflicts from 10 years ago are still alive and many changes are still to come one of the audience members will once again take part in a portion of the show.
The four women who perform as the Wonderettes for the musical were absolutely amazing. Each had wonderful voices, their harmony was beautiful and their individual performances outstanding. Not only were their voices amazing, but their facial expressions, physical humor, and choreography had everyone laughing throughout the show. During the 50’s portion of the show the audience heard from songs like “Lollipop”, “Dream Lover”, “Lipstick on Your Collar”, and “Teacher’s Pet” to name a few. During the 60’s portion of the show “Heatwave”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “It’s My Party”, “Leader of the Pack”, “Rescue Me” and “Respect” were but a few of the songs sung.
The stars of the show were Chelsea Franko, Ariella Kvashny, Alessa Neeck and Megan Carmitchel as The Marvelous Wonderettes. Each of these performers were hits by themselves and together they made the evenings performance memorable. Anyone who has every been to a prom or attended a high school reunion will identify with the turmoil that can arise from friendships, relationships, boy and girl issues and so much more.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is a musical your will definitely want to see if you have never seen it and one you will want to see again even if you have seen it. As Director Bets Malone said, “This is a musical that will bring you some fun, make you laugh and help you forget about the world outside for a couple of hours.”
Tickets are available at www.Tickets.welksandiego.com or call 760-749-3448 or 888-802-7469. For groups call 760-749-3182, ext. 22154. The Theatre at the Welk is located at 8860 Lawrence Welk Dr., Escondido and is a short drive out of Escondido on Highway 15.