BWW Review: WINTER WONDERETTES at Castle Craig Players
On Saturday, December 8, 2018, I had the pleasure of seeing WINTER WONDERETTES, as put on by the Castle Craig Players at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT. This musical comedy is playwright Roger Bean's new sequel to his previous hit jukebox musical comedy The Marvelous Wonderettes, which the Castle Craig Players produced last year. The same brilliant director Ian Galligan brings back the same four extremely talented actresses who gel together with tighter harmonies and stronger stage chemistry than many touring bands have ever attained. Chelsea Dacey, Emma Czaplinski, Jessica Engster, and Jennifer Del Sole reprise their roles of Suzy, Missy, Betty Jean, and Cindy Lou, respectively. Musical director Chris Coffee leads the three piece backstage live band that accompanies the singers, enhancing the quality of this show that is marvelous all around with excellent acting, singing, dancing, and stage antics.
The story is set in December of 1968, at Harper's Hardware Store, where the Marvelous Wonderettes, now seasonally known as the Winter Wonderettes are performing live. Missy is married to her former teacher, Mr. Lee, who is in the audience. Suzy is pregnant yet again, her husband handling the lighting for the performance, and using the lights to react accordingly to some of her words. Betty Jean's husband has left her. Cindy Lou is single and ready to mingle. They are waiting for Santa Claus to arrive with Christmas bonus checks. The songs are all secular Christmas songs, all performed in ways that entertaine the entire audience. From the more enduring and well-known songs like "White Christmas," "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," "Little Saint Nick," "Run Rudolph Run," "Sleigh Ride," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Santa Baby," and "Winter Wonderland," to the lesser known songs, to a "Mr. Sandman" parody called, "Mr. Santa," every song sounded great, some delivered with emotional feeling, and others, like "O Tannenbaum," deliberately performed in a farcical manner. All four cast members have strong individual singing voices that harmonize well with each other.
The character-driven humor is effectively delivered every time due to the strong dynamics between these cast members and the characters they play, as well as the talent that all four possess as individuals. All four cast members remain in character at all times and clearly enjoy their roles and interactions with each other, generating positive energy that radiates outward into the highly amused audience.
The fourth wall is broken several times, initially just as it is clear that the audience represents the audience that the Winter Wonderettes are performing for in the show. Towards the end of the first act, everyone in the audience receives a letter in an envelope to open, delivered by the cast members. In parts of the second act, some audience members are recruited and asked to come up on stage, while the remaining audience is split into three groups, based on where they are sitting, and asked to respond, in groups, to certain words sung on stage. For me, this was a highlight, as my wife, Colleen, was one of the audience members who got to participate up on stage, ringing jingle bells, when cued by the cast.
I highly recommend WINTER WONDERETTES which is scheduled to continue to run at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse, in Meriden, CT, as put on by the Castle Craig Players, through December 15, 2018, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 P.M. and Sundays at 2:00 PM. For tickets, please go to Tickets.