Stoneham’s ‘Wonderettes’ a fun summer cooler
STONEHAM — It is summertime, and the living is easy. But when the temperatures climb, theater-goers can be distracted — is it the girls in the bikinis or those gin-and tonics? Therefore, many theatres program lighter entertainment if open for the summer months.
Something like “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” now playing at the Stoneham Theatre, and described in a press release as “a fun, frothy musical.” There is plenty of truth to that.
This quintessential jukebox musical requires no heavy lifting for the audience, especially for we Baby Boomers who can climb into the Wayback Machine and sit back and enjoy of the greatest songs of the 50’s and 60’s.
Writer and creator Roger Bean has conjured up a thin, pretty hokey storyline to drape around the 32 musical numbers that are at the core of the production.
It is 1958, and plans for the senior prom at Springfield High School (not that Springfield High, Simpsons fans) have gone awry after the leader of the planned entertainment — the Crooning Crabcakes — has been bounced for smoking.
Into the breech step the Marvelous Wonderettes, an all-girl quartet that has been spoiling for a chance to show what they can do. If this reminds you of the musical “Forever Plaid,” in which the 1950s boy group The Plaids comes back from the dead to gives the concert they were never able to give on earth, well, as the Three Stooges used to say, they resemble that remark.
In this case, the Marvelous Wonderettes are Missy Miller (Tess Primack), Betty Jean Reynolds (Brittany Rolfs), Suzy Simpson (Laura Graczyk) and Cindy Lou Huffington (Lee Harrington).
We are provided with detailed bios of the four in the program and we learn a few personal details that will be further developed in the second act — such as Suzy is going very steady with her beau Richie.
The solo numbers were stronger than the group numbers, perhaps due to limited rehearsal time trying to get all four voices in sync at all times.
Each of the four actresses gets a chance to strut her stuff in solos: Primack as Missy with a pure, sweet rendition of the evergreen “Secret Love” and a bluesy “Wedding Bell Blues” in the second act; Graczyk as Suzy puts her heart and soul into “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” a first-act highlight; Rolfs as Betty Jean with “It’s My Party”; and Harrington as Cindy Lou with a sassy “Respect.”
Bean spices things up a bit with some audience interaction, including voting for prom queen. The second act moves the action back a decade to a 1968 reunion, giving writer Bean a whole other decade of hits to mine and some unfinished business to settle from the first act.
There will be some mini-crises designed to lead into one song or another before everything is wrapped up in a bow in the finale “Sincerely.”
There’s some clever, spot-on set decoration and props by Christopher Ostrom, including the banners touting the accomplishments of the Fighting Chipmunks of Springfield High.
Director Nick Sulfaro keeps the action moving along briskly, and you’re never more than a minute or two from a great song, well-performed by a four-piece band.
Lest I forget, the Stoneham Theatre is superbly air-conditioned and comfortable. “The Marvelous Wonderettes” isn’t high art, but then again, it is July.
The Stoneham Theatre production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Written and created by Roger Bean. Musical arrangements by Brian William Baker, orchestrations by Michael Borth, vocal arrangements by Roger Bean and Brian William Baker. Music direction by Jim Rice. At the Stoneham Theatre through July 28. http://www.stonehamtheatre.org.