Spent a lovely evening out in Berwyn catching opening night of The Marvelous Wonderettes at Footlighters Theater. This jukebox musical written by Roger Bean is set to songs of the 50s and 60s with musical arrangements by Brian William Baker. Featuring a girl group of four high school gals subbing in last minute as the talent for prom. Very much like a cabaret with a darling storyline. Act I takes place in 1958 and the gals are all seniors. Full of angst and dreaming of love. Think “After School Special”. Act II takes place ten years later. The gals are still full of angst, still dreaming of love, but with some pent-up bitterness towards life, marriage, parenthood, and friendship. Think “Real Housewives”.
There was so much kitschy-ness and attention to detail that you truly felt like you were in at a high school dance. Not only was the stage designed (Alicia Brisbois- Set Design) like a gymnasium, the prom adornments were also spread through the small theatre. Giant hearts, crepe paper pom-poms, etc thanks to the efforts of the “prom decorating committee”: Danielle Lachall, Matt Josbena, Daniel Scott, Emily Sturz, and Andrea Hart. It’s didn’t end there either. Both sides of the stage had refreshment tables set up for punch bowls and snacks. One tiny observation in Act II was that both tables were adorned in wine bottles, yet the wine was labeled with current wine distributor Rex Goliath as opposed to something that was 60s specific. Just a quick step outside the time-period for this theatre nerd. They did extend their theme all the way to their playbill which was cleverly used in two ways. One as the program for the production but also used like a high school yearbook chock full of prom photos and class superlatives. It was as cute as the show itself.
Director Alicia Brisbois and Music Director Nate Patton, cast an enthusiastic and fairly polished group of local talent. Kristen Matsen plays Betty Jean Reynold, the strong, brassy, class-clown who is most reminiscent of real life. Ellen Cohn plays Missy Miller, the doe-eyed, academically gifted late bloomer whose infatuation with teach Mr. Lee (surprise guest) is a pleasant plot point throughout the entire production. Alessandra Fanelli plays Cindy Lou Huffington, the girl you love to hate, very reminiscent of Regina George from “Mean Girls”. Rounding out the cast is the stellar, nuanced scene stealing, peach of a gal, Jennifer Hallman as Suzy Simpson. I don’t know her and have never seen her before but I certainly wish to do so in the future. Although all these women had standout moments, it is Hallman who upped the ante. Her performance elevates the cast as well as the audience. Her rendition of “Maybe I Know” followed by “Rescue Me” reminds us of some true storytelling in pop music. Katie Brown choreographed some adorable girl group action. I would imagine she will one day direct The Winter Wonderettes, a follow up to Marvelous.
This being my second time at Footlighters Theater, I can safely say that the talent on their stage has been marvelously wonderful and quite honestly surprising that they have empty seats. More people need to know about this little diamond in the rough. Although lighting and sound continue to be of novice proportions, it pales in comparison to the skill of the direction and vocal prowess I have been honored to witness. I’ve also noticed that when one person directs, they also wear many other production hats. So a major kudos to Alicia Brisbois and thank you for representing women in the arts and the power they bring. I encourage our readers to head out to the Main Line and see an adorable show that is running three more weekends! Every song is a hit including “It’s My Party”, “Stupid Cupid”, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”, and of course “Mr. Lee”.
The Marvelous Wonderettes
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312
Running now until February 9th.
NOTE: I do have one thing I would like to get off my chest: the women in the front row opening night who was video recording her daughter on stage…. STOP! It’s a huge distraction not only for people on stage but also for those of us in the audience. I’m not Patti Lupone, but I sure do listen when she speaks.
[Editor’s Note: Thankful to reader for pointing out spelling and grammatical errors which we hope have now be corrected. ]