From crinoline skirts to go-go boots, the Alhambra Theatre & Dining’s production of the off-Broadway musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is an endearingly nostalgic salute to a bygone era.
An off-Broadway “jukebox musical” written by Roger Bean, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is set to a soundtrack of classic chart-toppers such as “It’s My Party,” “Sincerely,” “Lollipop” and “Dream Lover.” The four-woman show pays homage to the female singing groups of the 1950s and ‘60s, while also providing subtle commentary on the drastic social attitude changes – particularly among women – between the two decades.
The show begins in 1958 at the Springfield High “Super Senior Prom,” for which The Marvelous Wonderettes – a singing group comprised of students Betty Jean Reynolds, Cindy Lou Huffington, Missy Miller and Suzy Simpson – have been called upon to perform. The four prom queen contenders sing and sway through a list of Billboard hits, all the while revealing each of their own personal experiences with love. Set 10 years later at their high school reunion, the second act of the show brings the Wonderettes back together to divulge how the years have molded and changed their perspectives on love, for better or worse, once more in four-part harmony.
In retrospect, the juxtaposition of the two acts – each set in a different decade – makes the generational differences in the female approach to romantic relationships all the more striking. In 1958, the girls are young, besotted teenagers, full of love and optimism for what the future holds. Ten years later, however, they have grown more experienced in the ways of men, and are just beginning to realize that love, without respect, cannot last.
Considering the show only has four cast members and offers little in the way of plot, the Alhambra ensemble indeed does a “marvelous” job of developing each individual character from one act to the next. For example, Juliana Davis does a remarkable job of transforming the self-absorbed Cindy Lou into a reformed and remorseful friend, while Kayla Thomas’ portrayal of the perpetually-betrayed Betty Jean is both sympathetic and delightfully comical all at once.
Running at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining through Feb. 4, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is an upbeat trip down memory lane. Those looking for a night of nostalgia (and excellent food) should see it if they have the chance.