Review: The Marvelous Wonderettes is Neither Marvellous Nor Wonderful
I attended Roger Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes at Stage West with the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group on Friday night (I’ve just added the + because I want to start including some straight plays next season). This show is a nostalgic romp through the 50’s and 60’s with a girls group that performs at the 1958 Springfield High School prom (and then in Act II, at the 10-year reunion), and shows us a little bit about their lives and loves and interrelationships along the way. It’s a 1999 show that played off-Broadway and has been widely performed and won a few prestigious awards around the continent since then. It’s even been successful enough to spawn a sequel, Winter Wonderettes, which features the girls singing popular Christmas songs.
As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I’m not a fan of this genre of musical, however I have been pleasantly surprised with some of the shows I’ve seen of this type this year, whether at Stage West, Jubilations or Lunchbox. This doesn’t happen to be one of them. While the performances of the four women (Laura Caswell as the ditzy Suzy, Melanie McInenly as the tomboyish Betty Jean or BJ, Melanie Piatocha as the boyfriend-stealing Cindy-Lou and Nancy Silverman as the geeky Missy) are first-rate, they couldn’t do much to save a really, really thin story and overdone juvenile humour (how many butthead, bubblegum and pregnant-woman-trying-to-sing-and-dance jokes are really necessary – 10? 5? 0?).
Act I was a complete bore for me, but fortunately things picked up a bit in Act II when there was a little – and I mean a little – more plot and even a hint of drama. I enjoyed the opening numbers “Mr. Sandman” and “Lollipop”, and then it was Act II before they piqued my interest again, with great performances of songs like “Needle In a Haystack”, “The Wedding Bell Blues”, “You Don’t Own Me”, ” Heat Wave”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Respect” and “Rescue Me” (or maybe it was the rush of Stage West’s fabulous dessert bar kicking in :?)?
If you really like the music of these eras, you may enjoy The Marvelous Wonderettes anyway – plus there is a kind-of-fun audience participation segment in which a poor schmuck is dragged on stage to play Missy’s teacher and love interest, Mr. Lee – but unless you’re a die-hard Stage West fan, you might want to give this one a miss and take in one of the many other shows happening in and around Calgary this summer (see 2012 Schedule).
I don’t normally read other reviews until I push the “publish” button, but I just found Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian‘s review of Stage West’s Toronto production last summer (same show and director (Tim French), different cast), and I thought he captured my sentiments even more eloquently than I have, so I am posting the link here for your entertainment and edification. In particular, I echo his comment at the end: “… the only thing I kept wondering is how many more crappy jukebox musicals I’m going to have to see before I die”. Me too, me too.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is playing at Stage West until August 19. Ticket prices range from $69 to $99 ($59 for Seniors 65+ on Wednesdays only). For more information and tickets, go to Stage West.