BWW Review: THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES at Florida Studio Theatre Where the Good Times Roll
I think many of us go to the theatre to be entertained. We desire to escape our daily reality, and be whisked away to someone else's world - a place that can be carefree and full of joy. Musicals take on many forms and The Marvelous Wonderettes, currently playing at Florida Studio Theatre under the direction of Jason Cannon. succeeds in providing its audience with a worry-free stroll down memory lane.
The story by Roger Bean, follows four young ladies on the night of their 1958 high school prom (Act I) and subsequently at their 10-year reunion (Act II). The premise is simple. Each woman defines her existence based upon the men in her life. While the storyline is basic at its core it does amplify the continual struggles of self-esteem and desire to be loved that still permeates through every school girl today.
The songs are a perfect mix of classic favorites from the 50's and 60's that have even the most jaded theater-goer quietly singing along as the action unfolds. The Marvelous Wonderettes is constructed like a modern-day Glee, where the dialogue is carefully orchestrated to lead into the next song. The musical has minimal dialogue as most of the story is told through song. While the show did not call for dramatic or complex acting skills, the four actresses all displayed total control of the stage, each creating a character that was poignant and unique.
The songs, under musical director Darren Server, were full of powerhouse moments and joyful melodies. The harmonies were spot on perfect. It is a magical moment when four-part harmony is performed to perfection. For these talented performers, it was seamless and created a beautiful sound that truly was the highlight of this production. In a show that could easily have "diva moments," the quartet displayed a wonderful balance and synergy that enhanced the production.
Ann Flanigan plays Missy. She is quirky but in control of every action between the four characters. Her love affair with audience member "Mr. Lee" was created in a way that brought the crowd to life and demonstrated the deep underlying intellect her character truly possesses.
Sarah Ledtkee McCann plays the feisty and nasty Cindy Lou. We all know the one - the boyfriend stealer who schemes behind your back. McCann was masterful as she orchestrated her place in the social hierarchy of the group while maintaining a vulnerability that made you like her even though you didn't want to at all.
Chelsea Turbin is the sweet and innocent Suzy. Every high school has a Suzy and Turbin creates her character in the perfect stereotypical manner. Her acting is electric and she continually makes you smile. Both her wit and charm combined with the naïve little school girl make you cheer for her to be the prom queen.
Every audience member has a character they connect with but I find it hard to believe that there was anyone who did not fall in love with Betty Jean portrayed by Meredith Jones. While there is humor throughout the show, Jones provides the comedic relief that makes you eagerly anticipate her every scene. From blowing bubbles to lifting up dresses of her classmates, Jones' timing is perfect. Furthermore, the way she interacts with each character helps us to see the intertwined relationships that make this story special.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is not a riveting story or a tale that will make you think. It is a light-hearted sing-a-long style show that you are just meant to sit back and enjoy. I think there is a place for that type of theatre in all of our lives.
The show runs through June 23. More information can be found at www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Matthew Holler