Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Nostalgia seemed appropriate Thursday night as the Flint Community Players opened the final production this group will stage at F.A. Bower Theatre. Set to move permanently to their newly renovated and expanded Ballenger Highway facility in the fall, The Marvelous Wonderettes both concludes and seems to salute FCP’s long-standing alliance with the Flint Cultural Center.
The time is 1958 and the occasion is the Springfield High School prom as four best girl friends agree at the last minute to fill in for the guy group that had to bow out. Close order harmony was the rule back then and these gals definitely fill the bill.
Baby boomers will be transported immediately as Cindy Lou (Jessica Eldredge), Betty Jean (Shelby Coleman), Missy (Andrea Allen) and Suzy (Mary Cantor) open the show with “Mr. Sandman” followed quickly by “Lollipop” and “Sugartime”. These ladies are the whole show and they handle it amazingly well, flouncy prom dresses and all.
Aside from some squabbles over boys between songs, this first act focuses on hits from the fifties, favorite teachers, and who will win the title of Prom Queen (the audience gets to “vote”!) Each girl’s personality is comically clear: Missy is the leader (“Eyes here!); Suzy is the bubbly bobby soxer (Oooo, Richey!); Cindy Lou aspires to stardom (Me, me, me!); and Betty Jean’s temper gets the better of her now and then (You stole my boyfriend!).
Whatever their differences, their renditions of songs such as “Dream Lover” (this one involves a chase), Cantor’s “Stupid Cupid”, and Allen’s lovely solo on “Secret Love” will conjure memories for sure.
Act two opens at the ten year reunion. The girls have been asked back for old time’s sake. A lot happened in the world in those intervening years between 1958 and 1968, but Springfield’s alumni party focuses on fashion and on personal trials and travails. To begin with, the gals are now outfitted in miniskirts and go-go boots!
Allen’s Missy had a crush on “Mr. Lee” back at the prom. Since then she has earned a teaching degree and stayed in contact with him. The best was yet to come after a great version of “Wedding Bell Blues”.
Betty Jean married her high school sweetheart in spite of Cindy, but things aren’t all rosy. We loved Coleman’s distraught version of “It’s My Party”. Meanwhile Cindy went to Hollywood and came back to link up with the local rabble rouser which Eldredge sings about in “Leader of the Pack”.
Cute little Suzy and Richey got married and now she’s pregnant but worried about an argument they’ve had. Cantor’s vocals on “Rescue Me” and “Respect” proved hard to resist. Even Richey came around!
Basically a musical revue, director Steven J. Mokofsky’s troupe manages to inject enough personal panache to make it seem like there’s a plot. We actually found ourselves identifying with the characters and even caring about them a bit.
The onstage musicians led by Frank E. Pitts were terrific – behind the action but perfectly tuned to the singers and the show.
Overall, this one is a lot of fun. It is tuneful, comical, nostalgic, as well as the end of one era and the beginning of another. The Marvelous Wonderettes continues at F. A. Bower Theatre through May 20. For tickets and information – 810-235-6963 or online – www.flintcommunityplayers.com