by Sandra Harman
Presented by the newly formed Anam Cara productions, The Marvelous Wonderettes is a refreshingly charming, fun filled musical that takes you back in time to the 1950’s where we meet four best friends as they prepare to perform at their 1958 Springfield High Senior Prom.
An opening loudspeaker voice-over sets the scene, and the first act introduces us to the Wonderettes: the outspoken Betty-Jean (Tara Carmen), the ditzy Suzy (Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga), the confident Cindy-Lou (Aimee Monement) and the shy, insecure Missy (Josephine Stockdale) and gives an insight into the girls’ current friendship status, boyfriend status (or lack thereof), dreams and rivalries. We discover all the girls are up for Prom Queen, which makes for some great comedy antics. As does the constant tussle for the limelight and the affections of a shared boyfriend between the determined Betty-Jean and the overconfident Cindy-Lou. Suzy does her best to keep the peace while flirting with Ritchie (the lighting guy), and Missy daydreams over the “love of her life”, teacher Mr. Lee.
The story moves along at a nice pace to the tune of many well-known 1950’s songs, including the opening number “Mr. Sandman” (which immediately showcases the performers’ vocal abilities with fabulous harmony work), the fun group number, “Lollipop”, polished renditions of “Stupid Cupid” (Suzy), and “Lipstick on Your Collar” (Betty Jean), the great visual comedy and vocals on “Allegheny Moon” (Mary-Lou), and a cheeky version of “Teachers Pet” (Missy & the girls). Until we reach the hilarious “30 second talent spot” comprising of four acts performed simultaneously, and, after an amusing audience participation voting session, the Prom Queen is crowned.
Move forward 10 years to 1968 and Act Two sees the girls back (in some stunningly shiny costumes) to perform for their high school reunion. Much has changed and we see these four characters become more empowered women as the act progresses; as they deal with success, heartache, marriage, pregnancy and broken dreams, helped enormously by the inclusion of some strong 1960’s numbers including “You Don’t Own Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man” (Mary-Lou), “It’s My Party” and “I Only Wanna Be With You” (Betty-Jean) and outstanding renditions of R.E.S.P.E.C.T and Rescue Me (Suzy).
As the Wonderettes, each performer successfully brings to life their unique character. Kenny-Sumiga as the sweet and sometimes clueless Suzy is a standout in both character and vocal performance. As is Carmen with her comedic timing, energetic physicality, and strong vocal work as Betty-Jean. Monement manages to strike the right balance with Mary-Lou between bitchy attention seeking sass in act one and a more human side in act two. Stockdale delights with her love-struck girl of secrets rendition of Missy. All four girls work beautifully together as an ensemble cast to portray the comradery needed for this story.
Producer and Musical Director, Sean Fagan, has done an excellent job with guiding these four performers through the vocals on the 30 plus songs in this production. As well as playing Lead Keyboard, he also conducts the live band consisting of Gabby Fitzgerald (keyboard 2), Ian Ahles and Fabian (guitar), Jerome Fitzgerald (Drums) and Thoms Malton (Reeds) for each performance.
First time director, Ashleigh Mairi-Joy Cates, brings some nice touches to the show and the choreography by Lynette Wockner is fun, inventive and well-executed. The fact that each character lays claim to her own colour scheme with the costumes (by Aimee & Marion Monement) adds some wonderful visuals, especially in Act 2. The Calamvale Community College auditorium and the simple yet colourful set by Andrew Alley served this production well. As does the effective lighting by Steve Maples. Good use was made of both the stage and audience space.
This fledgling theatre company is off to a great start with this production, providing fun, easy entertainment to cheer the soul.
If you missed the Brisbane season, The Marvelous Wonderettes will be at the Black Box Theatre, Nambour on Saturday 24th April at 2pm https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=721467