BWW Reviews: Laguna Playhouse's Marvelous Summer Treat: New Marvelous Wonderettes Sequel

BWW Reviews: Laguna Playhouse's Marvelous Summer Treat: New Marvelous Wonderettes Sequel

Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns/written, created & directed by Roger Bean/Laguna Playhouse/through August 12

Roger Bean has had such tremendous success with his Marvelous Wonderettes, the musical fable of the all-female singing quartet that began at Springfield High in the 50s and 60s... and, he's done it again. Missy (Misty Cotton), Suzy (Bets Malone), Betty Jean (Jenna Coker-Jones) and Cindy Lou ( Lowe Taylor) are back for their second sequel entitled Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and GownsNow onstage at the Laguna Playhouse, the four gals are still crackling with energy and optimism under the loving eye of director Bean.

As in the original, there are two acts. The original had Prom Night 1958 as Act I, followed by Act II's class reunion ten years later. In this new version, Act I is Graduation Day 1958 with Act II again 1968, not at the reunion but rather on the day of Missy's wedding to her favorite teacher Mr. Lee. Act I is all silly girlishly teenage fun where each displays an individual character trait as they relate to the others. Gal pals, the foursome are inseparable and share their innermost secrets, and sometimes boyfriends. Loyalty is always at the core with Missy being the smartest, most super-organized and the one most likely to...winning several prizes for her endeavors. Suzy would rather chew bubblegum and go out with Richie, who runs the lights, than do just about anything else. Betty Jean and Cindy Lou have competed for and dated the same guy, Johnny, so are quietly at odds throughout, as all four pay homage to Springfield High, their teachers, their family and their overall good times during the past four years. Audience get to participate as Betty Jean brings handsome Coach Warner onstage for a surprise game, and Missy points out her infatuation with her teacher Mr. Lee, whom she marries in Act II.

Michael Carnahan has designed a great gymnasium set with platform stage and Bobby Pearce some fiercely bright and attractive costumes, with Missy in orange, Suzy in blue, Cindy Lou in green and Betty Jean in pink, their favorite colors. Even their caps and gowns are the same colors ...  and in Act II, when Missy marries, her wedding dress guessed it, adorned with orange, and her bridesmaids in appropriate blue, green and pink attire. Bobby Camblee is the wig master, as hairstyles go 60s beehive for Act II. Act I has the rock of the 50s and Act II of the 60s with such memorable hits as: "At the Hop", "Dedicated to the One I Love", "Don't Mess with Bill", "Graduation Day", "Hooked on a Feeling", "It's Only Make Believe", "Just One Look", "The Look of Love", "Rock Around the Clock", "Sealed with a Kiss", "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and "May You Always" among many other favorites.

The four actresses are simply sublime. Cotton as fussy, know-it-all Missy never misses a beat, and Malone is sheer heaven as the ditzy Suzy, who only gets more delicious with age. Jones and Taylor are new to the quartet, but they maintain a great sense of chemistry with the other two, bringing great talent, charm and personality to the mix. The result is a delightful quartet whose singing is comparable to any of the great 50s/60s groups, such as The McGuire Sisters, Lennon Sisters, Diana Ross and The name them!

The only fault I found with Bean's script is in Act II. Some of the plot elements from the original do not jive with those in this sequel. In this show, Missy marries Mr. Lee, who was not her love interest in the original; Suzy had marital problems with Richie, whereas in this version, nothing of that nature is even alluded to. Maybe there's a calculated plan to Bean's changes, as I find it difficult to accept them as inconsistencies... nevertheless, it all seems irrelevant, as it's the music and the intimate friendship of the characters that give the show its oomph... and of course, the four fabulous actresses playing them.  Beware: if you have a problem with sugar, this is not a show for you, as the sugar-coated gloss of Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns is almost sickeningly sweet.

(photo credit: Ed Krieger)

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