Review: WINTER WONDERETTES at Swift Creek Mill Theatre

Cute and corny holiday treat returns to Swift Creek Mill

By: Nov. 24, 2021

Review: WINTER WONDERETTES at Swift Creek Mill Theatre

For holiday sweetness and corniness, you can't beat "Winter Wonderettes," Swift Creek Mill's remounting of a real Christmas treat. It's 1968, and the audience is playing the role of employees of Harper's Hardware in Springfield, Ohio, at the company's annual Christmas party. The quartet of Missy, Suzy, Betty Jean and Cindy Lou-first introduced to us in "The Marvelous Wonderettes," another past Mill production-has decorated the store and is now prepared to provide the entertainment.

That means seasonal favorite songs are on tap-about two dozen of them, done in close harmony, thanks to the girls' fabulously blended voices. The musical-written and created by Roger Bean, with arrangements by Bean and Brian Baker-concocts a few diverting plots and subplots for the girls, augmented with a dollop of audience participation. We get to know each of the girls individually, at least a bit; family circumstances and personality traits are revealed.

But mostly it's about the songs-everything from classics like "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bells" to novelty tunes like "Mele Kalikimaka" and "Suzy Snowflake". There's a parody of "Mister Sandman" repurposed as "Mister Santa"; there are traditional carols like "O Tannenbaum" and Chuck Berry tunes like "Run Run Rudolph." There are lost gems like "All Those Christmas Clichés" and "We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo." Who knew?

In the hands of director and scenic designer Tom Width, this makes for a good time. The set is a clever mashup of Christmas gear and hardware, lit with unending festivity by Joe Doran, and Width elicits high-energy performances from his cast.

The four singer/actors (in late-'60s color-coded dresses by Maura Lynch Cravey) carry off their roles with admirable enthusiasm. Alanna Wilson plays Betty Jean, longtime employee of the store, who's got marital troubles, and maybe work troubles, too. So newlywed Missy, played by Georgi Hicks, steps in to lead the quartet. Then there's sexy Cindy Lou, who can belt with the best of them, played by Rachel Marrs, who never disappoints, and Anne-Michelle Forbes as the unrelentingly ditzy Suzy, with her cartoon-squeaky speaking voice. Backed by a five-piece offstage band (Paul Deiss is the show's skilled music director and keyboardist), they center the songs while deftly handling the comedy-including coaxing audience members onstage.

This crowd-pleaser is lightweight, fizzy fun-maybe not so much Champagne as sweet sparkling cider, but effervescent nonetheless.

"Winter Wonderettes"

At: Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., S. Chesterfield

Through: January 1

Tickets: $49; dining available

Info: swiftcreekmill.com or (804) 748-5203



Videos