by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Peach State Summer Theatre in Valdosta, Georgia has something for everyone in the three shows they are doing for this 24th summer season. The Official Musical Theatre of the State of Georgia takes us back to the jukebox music of the 1950s in a musical revue that has 33 hits from the past.
If you are a fan of the golden oldies you will want to make note of the remaining shows of “The Marvelous Wonderettes”. In June, there is an evening show on June 27, with a matinee on June 29. In July, evening shows are on July 5 and 10, with matinees on July 3, 7, and 13. With a little planning , you can match up “Wonderettes” with “The Sound of Music” (on June 29 or July 10) or “A Little Night Music”, (on July 3 or 13) and have a musical theatre vacation in Valdosta.
We have seen musical revues in the past that had singers just standing on stage and singing but that is not the case with Wonderettes. Roger Bean, who wrote and created this show, takes us on a trip back to 1958 and the Senior Prom at the fictional Springfield High School (Home of the Chipmunks). Four very talented teenagers entertain at the prom while vying for your vote for the Marvelous Dreams 1958 Prom Queen. As an audience member, you will receive an actual ballot and will be encouraged to vote for your favorite.
Director & Choreographer Barbara Hartwig has carefully choreographed displays of antics you would expect from teens in that era, like chewing bubble gum, clowning around, upstaging each other, using wild gestures and of course relishing gossip. Well you get the idea. All the while they are singing songs that were big hits in those days: songs like “It’s My Party”, “Secret Love”, “Lollipop” and “Mr. Sandman”, to name just a few.
Prom queen candidates Betty Jean (played by JESSICA MATHIS), Cindy Lou (played by AMY FRITSCHE), Missy (played by SANDIA AHLERS and Suzy (played by RACHEL DAY), are dressed in colorful prom gowns with crinoline skirts, and sing interesting solos as a part of the prom queen competition. We will not reveal who won the contest; she received a lovely trophy.
Act II begins ten years later, at a class reunion. The Marvelous Wonderettes are back together, with new hair styles and new outfits. The bouffant skirts and high heels have been replaced by short Mondrian-inspired dresses and go-go boots, and once again the charmers are on stage to entertain. One of the girls is married and very pregnant . There is a bit more plot in this act as they discuss their various relationships and marriages, and harmonize during another dozen or so songs.
By the end of the act, all the issues related to romance have been resolved and the lovely ladies sing a final number for the very appreciative audience, “Thank You And Goodnight”.
This show works because of the excellent voices of all four singers, whether performing singly or together. They also proved to be physical comedians of the highest order. The orchestra under the direction of Musical Director Matthew C. Mainella was once again superb.
The sets featured a bandstand with four stand-up microphones, in colorful pastels. Decorative motifs were used to differentiate the two decades; the hearts featured on the bandstand in Act I were replaced with flowers in Act II.
This show has been a big hit all over the country and will continue to be since nostalgia and the good old days are always in the vogue. An interesting side note: The 33 songs in this show were all originally recorded by women. The music has an abiding infectiousness, and this handsome, glowing production left the audience buzzing with joy and smiles on their faces.
For a complete schedule of shows, check out valdosta.edu/psst. The phone number for reservations is (229) 259-7770.
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM