THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES

From “Dream Lover” to “It’s My Party” to “Lollipop” to “Son Of A Preacher Man” to “Wedding Bell Blues,” the Greatest Hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s (as performed by the quartet of comedic charmers best known as The Marvelous Wonderettes) guarantee the Sierra Madre Playhouse one finger-snapping, toe-tapping summer hit.

The year is 1958 and somewhere out in the American heartland the students of Springfield High are celebrating prom night and ready to be entertained by four of their most talented classmates.

There’s feisty tomboy Betty Jean (Kate Ponzio), whose rivalry with class beauty Cindy Lou (Kelsey Boze) is bound to set off a catfight or two; geeky, bespectacled Missy (Afton Quast), whose crush on Springfield High teacher Mr. Lee won’t be a “Secret Love” much longer; and Suzy (Kelly Klopocinski), a gum-chewing, squeaky-voiced cutie whose boyfriend Richie is up running the light booth.

From The Marvelous Wonderettes’ signature opening number (“Mr. Sandman”) to their signature closer (“Thank You And Goodnight”), the music and the laughs just keep on coming as between-song patter reveals tidbits about private lives and loves.

There’s also physical comedy to do Lucy and Ethel proud, as when Cindy Lou takes advantage of Betty Jean’s brief exit to the boys’ locker room to grab the mike and launch into B.J.’s song “Allegheny Moon,” subterfuge that prompts Betty Jean to do everything possible to upstage the cheeky upstart.

Along the way, Cindy Lou’s crush on “Son Of A Preacher Man” Billy Ray Patton, aka “The Leader Of The Pack” is sure to tickle audience members with memories stretching back half a century, as will Betty Jean’s fury when boyfriend Johnny leaves with Judy at the party (cue a certain Lesley Gore smash), and Missy’s “Teacher’s Pet” crush on “Mr. Lee,” whose given name inspires her to belt out “Marry me, Bill” in “Wedding Day Blues.”

Throughout both of The Marvelous Wonderettes’ two crowd-pleasing acts, director Robert Marra not only elicits some of the most delicious performances you’ll see all summer, his clever choreography gives each Wonderette her own personalized dance steps to go with those song-specific arm movements that no ‘50s or ‘60s girl group could be without.

Boze is simply scrumptious as Cindy Lou, whether demonstrating her talent-show “gift” for spokesmodel poses or tussling with Ponzio’s fabulously feisty Betty Jean; Klopocinski wins hearts from the get-go with her bubble-gum chewing, bubble-gum voiced Suzy; 3-D Theatricals favorite Quast is at her geeky comedic best as Missy; and all four show off simply heavenly pipes, both individually and in their razor-sharp four-part harmonies.

Musical director Sean Paxton and fellow band members Mike Flick, Jayden Saldana, and Kevin Tiernan provide bang-up backup from behind Jeff Cason’s bubblegum-hued decorated-for-prom gym set, with sound designer Cricket S. Myers and sound engineer Matthew Shane guaranteeing an expert mix of subtly amped vocals and instrumentals throughout.

A. Jeffrey Schoenberg gives each Wonderette a picture-perfect, color-coordinated ‘50s prom dress for Act One, then Act Two’s more vividly hued ‘60s feathered wraps, minidresses, and go-go boots. Jessica Mills wigs are equally era-evoking as are Esther Fuente’s multiple props  (with special snaps for the gals’ gown-matching lolliops), and Derek Jones’ vibrant lighting makes the entire package look even brighter.

The Marvelous Wonderettes is produced by Estelle Campbell and Christian Lebano. John Sparks is associate producer. Chloe Madriaga is stage manager and Lauren Dietzel is assistant stage manager.

A rocking, rollicking, romantic good time for audiences of all ages, The Marvelous Wonderettes makes a jaunt over to the Pasadena-adjacent Sierra Madre Playhouse a summertime must.

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Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Through September 17. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 2:30. Reservations: 626 355-4318
www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

–Steven Stanley
August 4, 2017
Photos: Gina Long

 

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