“The Marvelous Wonderettes” Brings 50’s And 60’s Pop To The Repertory Theatre Of St. Louis


The girls play a dating game in “The Marvelous Wonderettes” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Eric Woolsey

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is similar to “Forever Plaid” but with the ladies taking charge (oh, and they aren’t dead like the guys in “FP”). Centering on a senior prom in 1958, Act I shows four girls from Springfield High who get thrown into the entertainment portion because the guys from the school who were supposed to entertain go cancelled due to a certain infraction from one their group. Then, in Act II we revisit the scene for the ten year reunion in 1968. All the while we’re treated to hit after hit of these two decades from the pop charts.

My wife and I discussed after the show- which came first, the music choice or the plot? We concur a little bit of each as some of the songs fit into the story line of the four girls making up the “Wonderettes”- some fittingly, some funny. Anyway, it’s a “marvelous” way to spend an evening in the theatre.


The Wonderettes pose under their sign during the opening “Mr. Sandman” number in the Rep production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

The four girls are about as different as you can get from each other. Chiara Trentalange is the boyfriend stealer, Cindy Lou (or Cynthia, as she becomes in her more sophisticated personage ten years later). She couldn’t be more overt when she describes her man stealing ability sighting her “Lucky Lips.” In the second act, she is repentant and remorseful as we learn how she reformed in the ten year hiatus. This leads to some rather silly intros to songs like “Son Of A Preacher Man” and “Leader Of The Pack” (obviously the plot and characters driven by the song choices here).


A wonderful take on “Allegheny Moon” during “The Marvelous Wonderettes” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Eric Woolsey

The object of her indiscretions is Betty Jean with a delightful performance by Iris Beaumier. Her broken heart comes in the form of “Lipstick On Your Collar” in the first act and then another tragic romance in the second act leads to “That’s When The Tears Start” and “It’s My Party.”


The girls get the crowd going during the Repertory Theatre production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

Morgan Kirner really gets the party moving as Missy. Her first act crooning of Calamity Janes’ “Secret Love” becomes a plaintiff wail and then we get the audience into the action when she pulls “Mr. Lee” from the crowd as the teacher she’s got a crush on. This leads to a pretty good performance by a befuddled older man as he sits while they sing “Born Too Late” and “Teacher’s Pet.” In the second act, it’s revealed that they got married so the poor guy has to make another stage appearance. The audience loved it.

Finally we have Leanne Smith as Suzy- sort of the Suzy Homemaker type who then makes her grand entrance in the second act pregnant. Don’t worry, these aren’t really spoilers- it’s just that kind of show. She has fun with “Stupid Cupid” in the first act and then gets to lead a medley of songs in the second act ending with the Aretha Franklin anthem, “Respect. ”


Suzy leads the girls in a second act number set in 1968 in the Rep’s production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

Melissa Rain Anderson has directed with a tongue-in-cheek whimsy and her choreography captures the magic and mystery of both decades and their differing styles. The Adam Koch set design evokes the usual vain attempt of transforming a gym to a prom theme- you can almost swell the sweat from the last basketball game played there. Peter E. Sargent’s lights empower the surroundings and the Dorothy Marshall Englis costumes bring back memories of can-can skirts and then go-go boots.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” was created and written by Roger Bean and music director Joshua Zecher-Ross and his band have captured the mood of the 50’s and 60’s with the bounce and the ballads all coming through like a blast from the past. These four girls take to the music like fish to water. Individually they shine- collectively, they’re a force to be reckoned with.


The girls are encircled with red ribbon and hearts during their Marvelous Dreams Medley during “The Marvelous Wonderettes” at the Rep. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Don’t come for anything heavy- just brush off 2017 with a gentler and more mindful era. Just like opening night, the audiences will be singing along (just not too loudly), tapping their toes and bobbing their heads throughout the run of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Join the happy crowd at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through January 28th. Give them a call at 314-968-4925 for tickets or more information.

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