888 4 GAY NEWS or 888-442-9639

THEATER REVIEW: “The Marvelous Wonderettes” live up to their billing at Moonlight Amphitheatre

It’s prom night, 1958 at Springfield High School (Go Chipmunks!), and the scheduled entertainers – the Crooning Crabcakes from the glee club – have been fired from the gig because their leader was caught smoking behind the girls’ gym.

Replacing the boys are the girl group “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” all squealing excitement and nervousness in their pastel crinolines and hopes for the evening.

This show offers the same director (Roger Bean) and choreographer (Janet Miller) as the off-Broadway production, and is a welcome home for Bets Malone (playing ditzy Suzy Simpson) and Misty Cotton (as bespectacled Missy Miller), who got their start right here at Moonlight, played this show off-Broadway and have since made professional careers for themselves.

Pretty but vain Cindy Lou Huffington (Michaelia Leigh) and tomboyish prankster Betty Jean Reynolds (Natalie Storrs) complete the quartet – and are vying for the attentions of Johnny, leading to amusing onstage shtick. Missy has a crush on teacher Mr. Lee; Suzy has a thing for Richie the lighting guy.

The first act bops right along with 15 of those great old ’50s songs like “Mister Sandman,” “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover” and “Teacher’s Pet” (sung to an audience volunteer they call “Mr. Lee’s friend”). Kudos to music director/conductor Elan McMahan and her quartet of musicians, who keep things humming.

The second act takes place at their 10-year reunion, when life has thrown a few curves and the prom is a rapidly receding memory (oh, all right, I suppose we never really forget the prom).

Suzy is married and expecting Richie II. Missy has been dating Mr. Lee’s friend for five years (they eat pizza together). BJ ended up with Johnny, but they have split. Cindy Lou went to Hollywood to find ... something (“I just wanted to be somebody else”), but has returned to Springfield

But the very slight plot is inconsequential. If you’re from that era (or familiar with its music), you’ll probably find yourself tapping your toes, and you’re more than likely to leave the theater humming some of the 30-some tunes from this energetic jukebox musical.

Bean has an extremely talented quartet to work with. My favorite is Leigh’s Cindy Lou, whose silky voice is easy on the ears and lovely of interpretation.

Cotton, the scripted home ec major who made the dresses and the dreamcatcher (whose powers surprise even her), does a whale of a job on her big “Secret Love” number.

Alto Storms is terrific in the lower register and does a great job with the heartbreak ballad “It’s My Party” (and I’ll cry if I want to).

Bean wrote the part of bubble-gum bobbysoxer for Malone, so I’ll assume he wanted the whiny, high-pitched voice (both singing and speaking) heard in the first act. I found that grating, but she has a fine voice and gets to use it in the second act.

The sets (that good old high school gym), costumes and wigs from Musical Theatre West are spot-on.

If you remember the ’50s and ’60s – or just want to spend a delightful evening hearing those old songs – get thee to Moonlight for “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

The details

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” plays through Oct. 1 at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

Wednesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

For tickets call (760) 724-2110 or visit HERE.

i>To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.