Sunday, February 18, 2018
Stage

Review: Show Palace's 'Marvelous Wonderettes' hits the right notes

Almost two years before the phenomenally successful four-man musical Forever Plaid hit the boards, there was The Taffetas, the tale of a girl group hoping for fame and fortune. Both shows have four characters, sketchy plots, lots of songs from the 1950s and '60s and have been worldwide hits.

That success spawned a spate of similar shows, some wildly successful — Menopause, the Musical, for example — and not a few bombs — Hats! The Musical, which was nothing more than an annoying 90-minute commercial for the Red Hat Society.

In between are shows like Route 66, with four fellows singing lots of road songs, and The Marvelous Wonderettes, a four-female paean to music from the '50s and '60s. The latter is playing through Nov. 13 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.

Like others, it's four women singing with brief, contrived conflicts and a happy ending. Whether the show works depends on the performers and the director and choreographer who guide the movements.

For the most part, the Show Palace version does quite nicely in all these areas, with four good singers, polished direction by Robert Ennis Turoff (40 years at Golden Apple Dinner Theatre in Sarasota) and limited, but suitable dance moves by Jill Godfrey, a frequent director, dancer and actor at the Show Palace.

Act 1 takes place at the 1958 senior prom at Springfield High School, with the girls decked out in soft-hued tulle and net formals with matching shoes, and singing songs that most of the opening night audience could happily lip sync with them: Sincerely, Lollipop, Dream Lover, Stupid Cupid, all accompanied by girlish squeals, giggles, exaggerated hand moves — some of it to the point of annoyance, but appropriate for the characters' ages.

The second act is 10 years later, with white go-go boots, psychedelic colors and rather toned-down, mature behavior to go along with Heat Wave, It's in His Kiss and the anthem of the burgeoning women's liberation movement, You Don't Own Me.

It's during the second act that the singers get a chance to shine, with each getting solo song sets to explain what's been happening in their lives in the past decade.

Most impressive is Colleen Campbell (green dress, red hair) as Betty Jean, who can belt with the best and add gospel-style emotion that really soars with You've Really Got a Hold on Me, That's When the Tears Start and It's My Party. The gorgeous Heather Baird, as the sultry man-stealer Cindy Lou, vamps it up in Son of a Preacher Man and Leader of the Pack, strutting the stage with bravado that eventually turns to vulnerability and elicits sympathy and forgiveness.

Show Palace newcomers Kristin Wells and Caitie L. Moss are also pleasing. Wells plays a love-struck Missy Miller, who longs for choral director Mr. Lee, and Moss is tiny Suzy Simpson, who does a squeaky Stupid Cupid in act one, and wails a heartfelt Respect in the end.

All in all, The Marvelous Wonderettes is a fast-paced show and pleasant way to spend a song-filled two hours as fall sets in.

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