BWW Reviews: THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES Charms at the CLO Cabaret Through 10/2
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, a retro jukebox musical with a bubblegum-sweet four-female cast, charmed off-Broadway audiences for over a year from 2008 to 2010. Since April, it has played at the Pittsburgh CLO's own Cabaret at Theater Square, starring Courtney Bassett, Marlana Dunn, Tara Geisler, and Stephanie Maloney.
"Welcome to your 1958 super senior prom!" blares the show's opening announcement. From the moment the Cabaret's lights dim, the audience is transported back in time to Springfield High School on prom night. From here, we are introduced to the evening's selected entertainment: The Marvelous Wonderettes, an effervescent girl group so sweet they could make your teeth rot.
Throughout the course of the first act, the Wonderettes sing more than thirty familiar hits that are sure-bet audience pleasers – especially for those who remember dancing to such ditties on their own prom nights – such as "Stupid Cupid," "It's My Party," and "Lollipop," only to name a few. The show's second act then finds the women reunited at the ten-year reunion, at which point they naturally get the chance to belt out a handful of well-admired songs from the 60s, including favorites like Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" and the The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack."
The four ensemble actresses have certainly managed to nail their respective high school stereotypes down to a hilt – from awkward, gawky Missy all the way to ditzy, gum-popping Suzy. Though each girl gets her fair share of solos, the show's glimmering standout is by far Courtney Bassett, who, with her gorgeous set of pipes, only deserves more showcase numbers than her character has been given.
The set, designed by Michael Carnahan, sets a kitschy tone for the evening, as do Bobby Pearce's divinely crafted costumes that brim with just the right amount of frills and feathers (both men also designed for the original off-Broadway production). Only adding to the show's retro ambience are faux prom programs and ballots that litter tables and seats upon entrance to the venue. Audience participation is encouraged (and required!) as the Wonderettes emerge into the audience to collect these ballots containing spectators' votes for the evening's Prom "Queen of Your Dreams."
Additionally, as is tradition with the CLO Cabaret, audience members can arrive up to 90 minutes prior to the show to wine and dine before the performance; service continues until curtain and even through the show's fifteen-minute intermission.
Though a few directorial choices are trite and comically overstated, to take THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES at face value is to realize its true nature: it is a good-humored account of friendship through the ages – and a no doubt "marvelous" vehicle for some of the most beloved music of times gone by.
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES plays now through October 2nd at the Cabaret at Theater Square. Tickets start at $34.75 and are available online at CLOCabaret.com, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more can call the Group Sales Hotline at 412-325-1582 to learn more about special discounts, priority seating and corporate discounts. Visit pittsburghCLO.org for more information.