Steadstyle Chicago

September 2009 Theatre Review by Alan Bresloff

steadstylechicago.com

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The Marvelous Wonderettes

Over the last 10 or so years, many musicals have been put together using a group of songs either by a group, one writer or a musical period of time.  Some have been woven with stories that make each song fit.  "Mamma Mia" of course is the one most of us think of.  Northlight Theatre has brought in as its season opener the off-Broadway musical "The Marvelous Wonderettes," written and directed by Roger Bean, utilizing hit songs from the 50's and 60's and pieced together with a story about prom night 1958.  The original entertainment could not perform and so four girls, members of the singing group that placed in local competition rise to the occasion as the "Marvelous Wonderettes.

As they bring us some wonderful music of the era, "It's My Party", "Goodnight Sweetheart", Dream Lover," "Lollipop" and many more (over 30 songs in all), we are able to learn more about each one, their loves, their losses, their strengths and weaknesses.  The four ladies who play these singers, all local talents who have graced our area stages more often in supporting roles and now have the opportunity to shine, are the lovely Cat Davis as Suzy, the perfect girl next door, the very sexy Dina DiCostanzo as Cindy Lou, Laura E. Taylor as Missy, the nerdy one, and Tempe Thomas as Betty Jean, the jilted one.  Each of these ladies has a turn at doing lead singing and the interplay between the characters, while a bit hokey, does work.  They all have great vocal range and have developed the characters to remind us of some of the girls we went to high school with (oh, yes, I remember them well)!

Choreographer Janet Miller has some great moves for the ladies.  For those of us who recall the 50's, groups were very big into hand gestures and lots of little steps.  Miller has them down to perfection.  The set by Michael Carnahan makes the stage area appear to be a gymnasium with every little detail covered and the costumes by Bobby Pearce (who also did the wigs) were sooooo 50's.  This was cleverly written by Bean with lots of little phrases in the banter between the girls that later would be used as a song.  By the way, the audience gets involved in several ways, one to vote for the Prom Queen and secondly to come on stage.  If they ask, go!  You will have as much fun as the audience by doing so.

I think the most important thing to tell you is that this production has two acts and even though the prom ends act one, do come back for the ten year reunion and lots more great music.  Now we are into the "go-go" boots and late 60's music and learning more about our four ladies as they re-unite to bring music to the Gym for 1968.  What has happened during these years comes out along with some great songs by these four ladies, all of whom can belt it out or harmonize as back-ups.  While this is certainly not a show that will remain in your memory for years to come, it is a wonderful way to get away from the world's problems (or yours) for two hours and just have fun.  While it appeals to the 55 and up demographic as a walk down memory lane, perhaps the younger crowd will appreciate some of the great music from this era and have a little better understanding of why their parents turned out as they did.  This was a time much different from today.  A time when our hopes and dreams were much simpler and our music much more romantic, with lyrics that made some sense.

"Wonderettes" will run through November 1, 2009 at Northlight Theatre located in The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd. in Skokie.  Performances are Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Specials October 10 there will be a 7 p.m., Tuesdays September 29 and 20 there will be 7:30 p.m. performances.  Tickets range from $39-$54 and are available at the box office, by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org.  You also might want to check out the rest of what promises to be a marvelous season at Northlight.

 

About Alan Bresloff

Alan Bresloff, once an actor himself, has been covering the Chicago Theater Scene since 1993, first as the Theater and Arts critic for LaRaza newspaper, then with Salsachicago.com and then onto Extra Newspaper and The Epoch Times.  He also writes for ElImparcial and TeleGuia.  His reviews can also be seen on www.theatreinchicago.com.  Alan does not call himself a "critic" but a "reviewer" as he tries to educate the reader about theater itself, what is a good value, what to look for in a play or musical and more. 

"Exposure to theater is a very important part of a young person's life" he says. "Learning about the arts and culture is in fact learning about life" and he tries to explain more in his reviews than just if it is good or bad.  Even some of the poor productions have some value, he often says and he would love your feedback on shows that you have seen.  You can write him here or at albresloff@sbcglobal.net.