By Megan Grabowski
For the next two weeks, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall Studio is transformed back in time, 60 + years to the 1958 Springfield High senior prom. Pinks and blues embellish the stage creating an aesthetic of innocence I imagine from that era when pop songs were sugary sweet, and girls were adorned in lipstick and crinoline.
In Act I, Betty Jean (Mairead Roddy), Cindy Lou (Laura Barletta), Missy (Ivy Ferris), and Suzy (Tess Walsh) are high school seniors and best friends. Together, they are the Marvelous Wonderettes and their high school Song Leaders group members. Led by music teacher Mr. Lee, the girls are invited to perform at the senior prom, ‘Marvelous Dreams.’ After the Glee Club leader is caught smoking on school property and banned from the dance.
Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy, and Suzy serenade the promgoers with a playlist relevant to the romance of the evening. The Marvelous Wonderettes begin the show with the iconic “Mr. Sandman”, followed by “Lollipop” and “Sugartime.” Their dresses and color-coordinated patent leather shoes, youthful giddiness, and synchronized hand movements sweeten the scene. The girls are excited to represent their school and perform. To introduce solo numbers, Missy unveils a homemade ‘dreamcatcher’. The Wonderettes hold it above their heads and chant l-o-v-e to reveal in what order they will sing solo numbers. Before each solo, the girls dedicate a song to someone special. Suzy sings first and devotes her choice, “Stupid Cupid“, to her boyfriend, Ritchie. Next, Betty Jean sings “Lipstick on Your Collar“, dedicated to her boyfriend Johnny, who she suspects is seeing someone else. After this performance, Missy sings her solo number, “Lucky Lips“, revealing to Betty Jean she is the girl Johnny has been seeing. Finally, Missy sings her solo, “Secret Love“, dedicated to a secret crush, followed by an adorable montage of musical numbers, “Mr. Lee”, “Born Too Late”, and “Teacher’s Pet“. Finally, prom queen nominees participate in a simultaneous talent competition before determining who will wear the crown.
Act II Takes place at the Springfield High 10-year reunion. The Marvelous Wonderettes are present, now sporting mini dresses and Go-Go boots. Once again, they take the stage to perform for their classmates, singing a reprise of “Mr. Sandman” as a tribute to their prom. Through some of the decade’s most recognized songs, the girls share just how much has changed in the ten years since they have been out of school. An engagement is celebrated with “It’s In His Kiss” and “Wedding Bell Blues.” A breakup is revealed with the song, “It’s My Party.” Another relationship is exposed in “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Leader of the Pack“. The emotional toils of pregnancy are told through the 1960s anthems “Rescue Me” and “Respect“. Together through experiencing song, the girls discover, in the end, just how little has changed.
The music is the narrator of this show. Act I melodies reflect upon the naivety and simplicity of the Marvelous Wonderettes on the cusp of adulthood. Bursting at the seams of life, first crushes, school spirit abounds as they sing about their dreams and desires. Act II shifts the narrative from girls to women with real lives and real-life problems. But in the end, friendship and music are the glue that holds them and The Marvelous Wonderettes together.
I adored this show. I knew many of the songs, but not all of them (but I bet my folks would have), and I just loved the cleverness of integrating a story into the music from this era. I think The Marvelous Wonderettes would be a great performance to take Mom to for a belated Mother’s Day treat or Dad for an early Father’s Day adventure. They will enjoy the musical numbers, and you will have fun lip-synching alongside them. The Marvelous Wonderettes is a perfect performance to introduce a tween to musical theater. Kids will not just enjoy the music and dance but also the brightly colored costumes, the gorgeous set, cute props, and innocuous witticisms.
Kudos to director Sara Barbisch, who created such an enchanting production, ensuring each character’s individuality was spotlighted. Choreographer Dr. Aaron Cook and Cara McClaine made sure the girls nailed the timeline with their dance. Thank you to Roddy, Barletta, Ferris, and Walsh for giving this show so much life. Each performer’s voice had an opportunity to shine- and shine, they did!
The Marvelous Wonderettes is showing Thursdays- Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm May 12- 22nd. Masks are required for admittance and note this performance is not in the Music Hall but downstairs in the Studio.For more info and tickets visit: https://www.purplepass.com/#234025/Stage_62-The_Marvelous_Wonderettes-Andrew_Carnegie_Free_Library_&_Music_Hall-May-14-2022.html