the marvellous wonderettes

15 Apr

by Roger Bean
musical arrangements by Brian William Baker
Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Act one of this show, set in front of a giant silver moon, takes place is in 1958  and shows just how silly and irritating girls used to be.
Enter Four very pretty girls in similar fifty style dresses with huge skirts bulked out by net petticoats and distinguished only by the colours. Cindy Lou in pink, Missy in yellow, Betty Jean in green and Suzy in blue.
Most of the songs in Act one are new to me and frankly all sound alike – all about boyfriends and presented by teenage girls called upon to do the cabaret for the Prom night. The girls giggle, scream and squabble through the numbers, but the singing and harmonies are never less than perfect.  Nevertheless, one of my reactions during this act was ‘Thank God for the Beatles’ 
”Sandman” is the opening number with some interesting harmonies, amusing attitudes and bong bongs but it leads into “Lollipop” and “Sugartime” and I long for John Paul George and Ringo. A couple of Dream Songs follow and suddenly there is “Stupid Cupid” and the show lightens up. A moment of joy following by “Lucky Lips” (Leiber and Stoller on a bad day.) Then comes the wonderful “Secret Love” sung by yellow-clad Sophie Camble as Missy in her incredibly lush soprano. For me, this set the standard for the rest of the show. No more longing for  John Paul George and Ringo. These girls are IT.
Act two takes place ten years later and the girls have entered the real world, taking scraps of their teenage years with them – Again similar gear in their favourite colours white boots, and short skirts.  The drama and comedy of their lives turn this jukebox musical into a real musical theatre. The sweet pink sexpot Cindy Lou played by Rosie Needham sings “The Son of a Preacher man”  Louise Young who was the naughty Betty Jean is having a birthday and does “It’s my  Party” giving a powerful dramatic performance and Kara Taylor Alberts as Suzy has problems which cannot be revealed here.
Missy and the girls sing  the very ballsy “You don’t own me” which is the first inkling of a new attitude from the idiot girls in Act one.’
There have already been two Offie nominations for the show. Congratulations to Iona Holland choreographer who delineates neatly the change by the ‘ultra-feminine’ moves of the fifties and the raunchy choreography of the sixties.  Lauren Ronan is musical director, Emily Bestow is set and costume designer and Sarah McColgan, lighting designer. They have a wonderful band backing them up. Led by Lauren Ronan and Fred Feeney on keyboards, Drums Janette Williams, and Reeds Emma Mackinder.
Practically the whole of the creative team involved in this show is women. Where are the blokes?  Well, inevitably they are the subjects of the songs. Yes, the guys still have all the attention even in their absence
It is a  satisfying production and well directed by Joseph Hodges – a young man with a passion for music of the past and the ideal person for this job.

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