THEATER | At Plymouth Playhouse, wonderfully "Marvelous Wonderettes"

I was at Plymouth Playhouse on Saturday to see The Marvelous Wonderettes. This was my second visit to Plymouth Playhouse, the first being to review Away In The Basement, A Church Basement Ladies Christmas. As with my first visit, I found myself truly enjoying this venue—it is a warm, inviting, very comfortable theater. Maybe that is part of the reason I have thoroughly enjoyed both of the shows I have seen there.

The Marvelous Wonderettes takes the audience back to the 1958 Senior Prom at Springfield High School. For each of the audience members, Springfield High School is the school where we experienced the gym decorated with crepe paper, complete with lockers, the clock protected by the wire cage and the school buzzer sounding at regular intervals.

the marvelous wonderettes, presented through july 24 at plymouth playhouse. for tickets ($20-$38) and information, see plymouthplayhouse.com.

The Wonderettes are four classmates who have formed a girl-band and have been asked to perform at the prom after one of the boys from the Crooning Crabcakes (the school boy band) got in trouble and couldn't perform. The audience becomes part of the prom as we are reminded to keep our feet on the floor at all times and turn off anything else we may have that rings or buzzes. We are even given a ballot to vote for prom queen.

The second act moves forward to 1968 for the 10-year class reunion and the reunion of the four friends, who are again asked to entertain their classmates. As with other jukebox musicals, the story unfolds through the lyrics of 33 hits of the 50s and the 60s. It is really amazing to see the difference between the innocence of the 1950s ("Mr. Sandman," "Dream Lover," "Lollipop," "All I Have to Do Is Dream") and the rebellious 60s ("Respect," "You Don't Own Me," "Leader of the Pack," "Wedding Bell Blues"). A member of the audience is singled out as Mr. Lee, the choir director, and is even brought on stage to be serenaded by the girls  and brought back again during the class reunion for a surprising development.

While the set undergoes only minor changes for Act 2, the costumes make a radical shift. The Wonderettes start in their crinoline skirts and bouffant hair styles at the prom and switch to short skirts and go-go boots for the reunion. Because the setting doesn't change, the costuming switch needs to work extremely well to create the shift in time—and it does.

Justine Carroll (Betty Jean), Megan Kelly Hubbell (Missy), Debi Kilde (Suzy), and Anne Reason (Cindy Lou) each bring their own personalities and talents to their characters. All have strong singing voices and acting abilities and mesh together well as good friends but sometimes rivals. The choreography cleverly mimics the standard moves we all expect while reflecting the awkwardness of the four learning to perform together and the rivalry between Betty Jean and and Cindy Lou for the love of Johnny. (Of course!)

The Marvelous Wonderettes is a Troupe America production which will play at Plymouth Playhouse until July, and then embark on a national tour. The show is written and directed by Roger Bean and has had extended successful runs on both the east and west coasts. It finally found its way to the Midwest when Curt Wollan, the president of Troupe America, invited Bean to bring his show to Minnesota. Troupe America casts locally and found four wonderful actresses to star in this show.

If you are a fan of the wildly popular TV show Glee, or if you want to relive your high school years, or if you just want a wonderful evening of entertainment I recommend that you head to this high school prom.

2705 Annapolis Ln. N.
Plymouth, MN 55441
763-553-1600

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Jean Gabler's picture
Jean Gabler

Jean Gabler (jmgabler [at] stthomas [dot] edu) is the assistant director for undergraduate business programs at the University of St. Thomas. She lives in Merriam Park.

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good to know

Fun to read these details, and I appreciate knowing that an acting troupe, although moving the performance nationally, hires locally. What a great way to keep the community involved. Thanks for the details!