‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ Opens at Theatre Palisades

By Sue Pascoe

If you were a teenager during the late 1950s, this is the show for you. The people behind me seemed to know the words to many of the songs and they happily hummed or quietly sang along during The Marvelous Wonderettes, a musical comedy that opened Nov. 7 at Theatre Palisades.

The first act has 17 songs, including “Lollipop,” “Sugartime,” “Dream Lover,” “Lipstick on Your Collar,” and “Secret Love.” The setting is a high school prom, where the four girls are performing for their classmates. Okay, it’s a musical and I’m sure somewhere in the United States people spend their prom watching other classmates perform — or would that be a talent show? Never mind.

The Marvelous Wonderettes are (left to right) Michelle Zelina, Kana Koinuma, Amanda Leigh Kraft and Laren Gaw. Photo: Joy Daunis
The Marvelous Wonderettes are (left to right) Michelle Zelina, Kana Koinuma, Amanda Leigh Kraft and Laren Gaw. Photo: Joy Daunis

The second act is 10 years later at a high school reunion and the girls are reunited to once again perform for their classmates. Each character lets the audience know about her love life. There are 16 songs including “Wedding Bell Blues,” “I Only Want to Be With You,” “It’s My Party,” “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Leader of the Pack.”

The performers are incredibly capable and cute: it seems a shame to use their talents for a show that barely has a plot. One might argue that a show like Ain’t Misbehavin’ doesn’t have a plot line, either—but then it has rich music that goes beyond teenage angst.

The performers are top-notch. Laren Gaw’s (Suzy) smile lit up the stage and it was hard for the audience to take their eyes off her. Kana Koinuma (Betty Jean) played the scorned girlfriend perfectly. Amanda Leigh Kraft (Missy) played her character’s shyness and lack of assertiveness to a T and Michelle Zelina (Cindy Lou), as the girl who gets all the boys, was lovely.

Wonderettes premiered at the off-Broadway West Side Theatre in September 2008. The New York Times praised the show, calling it “One irresistible musical! An utter charm bomb!” The people sitting behind me would probably agree.

June Lissandrello, a Theatre Palisades veteran, has outdone herself in costume design. The contrast between the ‘50s prom dresses and the ‘60s mod outfits was striking and fun.

Director Lewis Hauser has been successful in keeping the piece light and entertaining. However, the microphones (fake) in front of the actresses are misleading. One expects the women’s voices to be amplified, but they are not. Luckily the theatre is small and the capable voices are easily heard.

Brian Murphy (piano), Ian Dahlberg (flute/saxophone) and John Harvey (drums) provided excellent musical background.

Calling Roger Bean the author of this musical is a bit presumptuous: he could be called the song organizer.

The show plays Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Rd. Adult admission is $25 and seniors/stu- dents $23. Call (310) 454-1970 or visit theatrepalisades.com.

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