OREM — Set at a high school prom in 1958, The Marvelous Wonderettes is a show aiming for nostalgia. It depicts the performance of a female quartet at their prom then reconvenes in the second act with the same girls at their ten year reunion. The show brings the audience to ‘58 with memorable tunes such as “Stupid Cupid” and “Dream Lover” then transports them to ’68 with favorites such as “It’s my Party” and “Respect.”
As a strict musical review, Wonderettes hit the spot. If you want a story full of substance, Wonderettes was less appealing. Strictly speaking on the script, the first act, which depicts the prom, seemed to be void of anything real. The characters had no real purpose and the story didn’t move. While I identified that the story wasn’t trying to follow the classic plot structure with the building of a beginning, middle, and end, I did expect there to be something to grab onto. This act may have even been trying to prove a lack of substance on purpose, but even then it didn’t hit its aim. There were only surface level teenage girls that weren’t given something to fight for. The occasional conflict seemed to exist only to facilitate a musical number and not to grab the audience. There was little investment and no depth to the characters written into the script.
The second act improved somewhat as the characters revealed hardships that they were experiencing. At least this gave the great actresses something to run with to show their abilities. Real depth was not quiet achieved on the part of the playwright because no struggle for resolve was built in. The script also lacked variety as all the character’s hardships, and even their lives, were strictly based on their relationship statuses. The audience was expected to believe that in an entire ten years between acts the only thing to talk about was who was dating whom, who got married, and who would hopefully be getting engaged.
That being said, the Hale was able to bring this flat script into something enjoyable. The acting was great. Julie Garcia, playing Cindy Lou, presented a character that could be flawed but not hated. She took the sometimes mean choices of the character and presented them in a way that wouldn’t permit for the character being dismissed as the “evil” one. Mimi Knell, playing Missy, expressed considerable growth in her character. She seemed to be the most changed by the passing of time and showed two sides of the same loveable character. Kelly Hennessey, playing Suzy, was the most confident in her presence. She commanded the stage without overacting. Henessey didn’t create a one-dimensional ditz that would have been easy for that character. Instead she gave a delightfully honest performance of a light and innocent girl. Xandra Wille, playing Betty Jean, impressed with her ability to enhance the overtly obvious gags of the script with a subtly that created genuine humor. While all four were vocally dazzling, certainly assisted by music director Korianne Orton Johnson, Wille struck me the most with her ability to blend in harmonies and beautifully belt when it was her time to shine.
The direction (Neal C. Johnson) and choreography (Venna Barrowes) must be mentioned, as blocking and choreography seamlessly blended in creating interesting pictures and formations. An amazing amount of variety was shown on a relatively bare stage with only four actresses. The dramatic buildup of the story and character relationships were lacking, but I was impressed with the depth that was managed from this script.
Some technical elements were notable as well. The set (Bobby Swenson) was understated but assisted the story well. Lighting (Cody Swenson) was an enormous asset in creating the world of the play. The gym was transformed for each number into something fitting for the attitude of the individual song. The lighting added to what the characters were feeling and helped the audience understand what the script didn’t necessarily succeed in portraying. Costuming (Amanda Swenson) and Hair/Makeup (Janna Larsen), while somewhat predictable, was pleasant aesthetically and assisted the show in its purposes.
While The Marvelous Wonderettes left the substance craving audience member inside me wanting more it left my inner music lover satisfied. I was pleased by the performances given during the show. I’m excited to see what else these actresses are made of, especially with a story they can do more with. If you desire a night of toe tapping don’t miss this show. If you want a comedy with a little more than that, you might want to wait for the Hale’s production of The 39 Steps.