Pictured from left to right:  Jillian Prefach as Missy, Brittany Carricato as Cindy Lou, Cami Glauser as Suzy, and Elizabeth Loos as Betty Jean.

Winter Wonderettes

Written and Created by Roger Bean and Brian Baker
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Choreography by Heather Paige Folsom

Review by Brian Walker

Copyright 2013 by Brian Walker, all rights reserved.

Like it or not, the holidays are upon us. Yes, they start earlier and earlier every year. But I, for one, would prefer to enjoy the holidays longer than whine about how they shouldn’t be starting yet. I love the holidays. I love the music, the lights, the songs! I love time with family and friends and I especially love the enlivened sense of gratitude that is synonymous with the season. Derby Dinner Playhouse’s holiday offering this year in Winter Wonderettes features all the glitz and glamour that I love, but is a bit light on the meaty stuff that makes the holidays so special.

It’s the annual holiday party at Harper’s Hardware Store, and the four ladies of the Winter Wonderettes have been hired to entertain the party. When Santa (Mr. Harper himself) comes up missing, they must improvise to keep the evening going. They banter with members of the audience as if they’re employees of the store. They sing. They dance. There are a lot of props and even more sparkling lights. There are mentions of relationships gone awry, holiday bonus checks and store closures. But overall, the script is about as thin as some cheap wrapping paper. To say there is a plot would be very generous, as what the show is primarily composed of are musical vignettes performed by the four women to various Holiday songs including old favorites like” Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Oh Tannenbaum” mixed with some lesser-known gems like “Sleigh Ride,” “Suzy Snowflake” and “Mister Santa.” The sort of superficial issues that arise over the course of the evening are nicely and easily solved and tied up in a pretty bow. There are a few moments that tug on the heart-strings, but overall it’s a lot of broad comedy and sight gags and was fun. I was never moved past the “having fun” phase, and maybe that’s okay. It is the holidays, which are meant to be fun; not everyone can find their soul at the end of Act II.

What the script lacks, this impressive quartet makes up in droves; and though as a “play” the piece didn’t really work for me, as an evening of song and dance it was delightful and completely and totally entertaining. The staging was snappy and perfectly paced, and the choreography was simple but effective. Brittany Carricato Cox is Cindy Lou, the naughty big city girl who’s never really fit in a small town. She performed with grace while oozing sex appeal and was especially a delight when flirting with the older men in the audience. Cami Glauser as Suzy was quirky and adorable with perfect comedic timing. Her Suzy Snowflake was too adorable for words, and her elf antics provided a funny running bit. Jillian Prefach as Missy played the sensible newlywed with a big heart well, and it was hilarious watching her with a gentleman in the first row she donned her husband and interacted with the entire show. Elizabeth Loos as rough-around-the-edges Betty Jean was fabulous. She felt the most grounded to me, the most invested in someone real as opposed to a caricature of a character, and I really appreciated that. I’ve seen her before at The Derby, and she’s the kind of performer you can’t take your eyes off of. Her charisma is off the charts, and she has such a mastery over her facial expressions that she can signal something huge with the smallest glance or roll of an eye. Now I’m not saying one of these ladies was better than the other, because they were all wonderful, Ms. Loos was just my own personal favorite. As an ensemble, the four women work together beautifully and find a perfect balance of shining themselves and letting each other shine.

So if you just want to have fun at a holiday production this year and not get hit with a lot of deep soul-searching stuff, I would highly recommend this one. You’re not going be challenged to do much more than to have a blast as an audience member, and there’s cake.  May I recommend the Hummingbird?

Winter Wonderettes

November 12-December 31

Derby DinnerPlayhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, Indiana  47129