Written by Patrick Chavis
American Coast Theatre Company presents The Marvelous Wonderettes, a jukebox musical, on the Lyceum Stage at Vanguard University from May 28 through June 26.
The show is about a four-piece girl singing group that sings older retro songs from the 1950s and 60s at their high school prom. As the group sing through the different pieces in the musical, the girls interact with each other in dramatic and comical ways. The second act consists of the girls returning for their 10-year reunion, and similar conflicts, if not slightly more adult, arise.
Set designer Paul Eggington does it again. His design takes you back to the 1950s. The set looks like a prom held in a basketball gymnasium with a color palette of pinks, yellows, and blues, covering the stage. To the right of the stage, you have the punch bowl. You can’t have a prom without the obligatory punch bowl. There’s a raised stage with four microphones for the singers in the middle.
This show is a jukebox musical, so everything is created around singing these popular, old-school songs. Consequently, the show’s drama and comedy are rather sophomoric. It’s fine in doses, but the jokes get repetitive. For example, The fight between Cindy Lou, played by Logan Cranford, and Betty Jean, played by Natasha Reese, is dull and unfunny. They’re supposed to be best friends, but they’re fighting over this guy Johnny, who seems to treat both of them horribly. Why aren’t these girls mad at Johnny for being a two-timer? He doesn’t seem to get better during the second act either.
If you can get past some of the less exciting parts of the play, the music is where this show shines with classics such as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man” from Dusty Springfield, Mr. Sandman — that famous 1950’s standard by The Chordettes — and many more. The actresses harmonize well on stage. Watching them belt out these popular tunes onstage is a lot of fun.
I loved Noelle Roth’s bubbly performance of Suzy. She captured the simple but comical essence of the character. It was a pleasure watching her perform on stage.