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BWW Review: WINTER WONDERETTES at Desert Theatreworks

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Campy 60's Fun With Plenty of Christmas Cheer

BWW Review: WINTER WONDERETTES at Desert Theatreworks

If you hear explosions of Christmas cheer at the east end of the valley, chances are they are coming from Desert Theatreworks current production, Winter Wonderettes. Four very talented young ladies and a three-piece band burn their way through 26 Christmas songs in two hours, and the characterizations between the songs are every bit as enjoyable as the banquet of tunes.

The show finds Suzy (Keanna Garcia), Cindy Lou (Emily Unnsach), Betty Jean (Kelly McDaniel) and Missy (Verity VanDams) as employees of Harper's Hardware and they are providing the entertainment for the company's big holiday extravaganza. They show is set in the 60's and their hair and dresses nail that period perfectly. Each of the four ladies have incredible solo voices, and the songs were assigned to show their strengths. There were also numerous ensemble numbers, always accompanied with energetic choreography. During the second act, the girls involve several individuals from the audience in the action, and the rest of us got to shout and wave our hands on cue. It was all good, silly fun.

The show was directed by Raul Valenzuela, and the movement never stops. Sets were designed by company artistic director Lance Phillips. The setting of a hardware store was achieved by raised platforms on the left and right edges of the stage with shelves filled with paint cans, garden tools, etc. The band played from the platform to our right. There were two large rolling platforms that featured steps up to raised levels with tinsel curtains on one side of the structures. The girls moved the units around and occasionally stood on the steps, but I kept waiting for the upstairs parts and the tinsel sides to be used. I never quite figured out what they were supposed to be. Jeff Mazer's projections at the rear of the stage were great, and gave us lots of variety, including the front window of the hardware store, and Phil Murphy's lighting design displayed his regular excellence.

This show is an offshoot of a show called The Marvelous Wonderettes which dates back to 1999. I saw and loved a production in North Hollywood in 2006, and it opened off-Broadway in 2008 with choreography by COD Professor Janet Miller. Winter Wonderettes was first seen in 2003, and there is one other sequel. All of the productions were originally directed by the show's author, Roger Bean.

Desert Theatreworks used the pandemic as an opportunity to convert the big central room of Indio Performing Arts Center (IPAC) into a large theatre, and it is wonderful. It features a sound system that sets a whole new standard for any of the valley's theatres, and offers significantly more seating.

The next show coming up is Always ... Patsy Cline which features "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "Walkin' After Midnight" and many more of her iconic hits. This is also a scripted musical about a devoted fan and her interactions with the iconic country star. Once again, it will be presented with a live band.

Winter Wonderettes continues through December 23. Tickets and further information can be found at www.DTWorks.org.

Photo by Paul Hayashi


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