Emily Grimany, Marcy Zeigler, Emily Vergason, & Kate Vanegas in The Marvelous Wonderettes. Photo: Highview Arts Center
The Marvelous Wonderettes
Book by Roger Bean
Directed & choreographed by Emily Grimany
A review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Who among the readership still remembers their respective high school proms and reunions with clarity and fondness? For many, a successful prom is almost as important as walking across the stage to receive the diploma.
As with many things, proms have evolved over the years, from having simple decorations in the gym to red-carpet affairs at a local hotel’s ballroom complete with animatronics and paparazzi.
The Highview Arts Center’s production of Off-Broadway’s The Marvelous Wonderettes brings us back to the 1960s when the gym at Springfield High School was used and adorned with balloons, crepe paper, and a background that was probably made in Mr. Wilson’s fifth-period Wood Shop class.
As everyone gathers in for the Super Senior Prom, the entertainment of the evening comes from senior song leaders and best friends: Missy (Marcy Ziegler), Suzy (Emily Grimany), Cindy Lou (Mary Kate Vanegas), and Betty Jean (Emily Vergason). Under the direction of their music director, Mr. Lee, the friends were asked to perform at the prom because the previously scheduled group’s leader was caught doing something behind a school building.
Interweaving their lives loves, and longings, using top hits of the 50s and 60s, the quartet takes us through a fun musical journey tinged with teenage angst and hi-jinks that lead to uproarious laughter from the audience.
Speaking of audience, there may be some interaction from the Wonderettes and it is all done naturally and the quartet are quick at rolling with the punches.
At the end of the Super Senior Prom, the ladies leave with some uncertainty about their respective futures which may be why Act II was added in the final version of the show.
The singers return for a 10-year reunion and in the same style use songs to share their relationships, desires, and life lessons. As with many reunions one usually expects to see some growth and maturity and the Wonderettes portray that side of their lives with aplomb.
Some of the songs used throughout the evening are familiar, such as “Dream Lover” and “Lollipop” and lesser-knowns like “Secret Love” and “Sugartime.” Most of the songs lend themselves to harmonies common to quartets and the ladies did well, most of the time. While not every song was perfect in its harmonic delivery, I took it as part of a purposeful delivery, which is an even more difficult task to take on.
The solos from each Wonderette were on point and indicative of each singer’s persona. Emily Grimany’s “Maybe I Know” was full of angst and uncertainty, but then morphed into the battle cry of strong women, ” Respect.” You could hear the sorrow in Mary Kate Vanegas’ “Leader of the Pack” and smugness in “Allegheny Moon.” Emily Vergason as Betty Lou was a standout as an antagonist holding her own with songs like “Lipstick on Your Collar” and “It’s My Party.” Marcy Ziegler as Missy was that one friend that tried to be the glue that held the group together and brought the house down with her renditions of “Wedding Bell Blues” and “You Don’t Own Me.”
Musical director Tasha Hatchett and choreographer Emily Grimany certainly did well in keeping the feel of the decades portrayed centered and pointed, as did the costumes by Marcy Ziegler and Mary Bain. Directors Grimany and Fortwengler kept the show moving and engaging.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is a fun ride back in time and is perfect in its imperfections.
Featuring Emily Grimany, Mary Kate Vanegas, & Emily Vergason, Marcy Zeigler
The Marvelous Wonderettes
June 2, 3, 9 & 10 @ 7:30 PM
June 4 & 11 @ 2:00 PM
Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40228
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.