By Lydia Baxter
Opening FST’s 2019 Summer Mainstage season is the Off-Broadway hit musical The New York Times called “An utter charm bomb”—The Marvelous Wonderettes by Roger Bean. Produced across the country to sold-out houses for over twenty years, The Marvelous Wonderettes takes audiences on a cotton-candy colored musical trip down memory lane with over 30 of the top hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s, like “It’s My Party,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “Mr. Sandman.”
This comedic musical opens on Springfield High’s senior prom. It’s 1958 and the students are ready to dance. There’s only one problem—the male glee club that was supposed to perform was canceled after their lead singer was found smoking behind the girls’ locker room. But fortunately, four spirited young women—Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy, and Suzy—are ready to take the stage and dazzle their classmates in four-part harmony as “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”
Betty Jean is your typical class clown. She uses humor to get people’s attention, which can be hard to do, since she’s often overshadowed by the prettiest girl in school. That girl is Betty Jean’s best friend, Cindy Lou. Cindy Lou is used to getting things her way, and she already knows she is going to be crowned Prom Queen. There’s also Missy, the over-achiever of the group, who will go to any length to ensure that everyone enjoys prom (after all, she did decorate the gymnasium for the occasion herself). Missy’s best friend, Suzy, couldn’t be more different from her Type-A bestie. She is much happier going with the flow and seeing where the night takes her and her fellow Wonderettes.
But the night is not all bubblegum bliss. Things start to get ugly as the four young women vie for the most coveted title of the night: “Queen of Your Dreams” (aka Prom Queen).
Since its World Premiere production in 1999 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, The Marvelous Wonderettes has been a success wherever it has been produced. The musical ran for three years Off-Broadway at New York City’s Westside Theatre, and made its UK and European premiere earlier this year.
Just look at the show’s song list and you’ll see why The Marvelous Wonderettes has been such a hit—it’s pure musical nostalgia. “The music is in the breadbasket of our audience. It really appeals to them,” shared Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “Plus, I think we can bring heart, authenticity, and warmth to the show, and still have the goofy characters and comedy.”
FST Associate Artist Jason Cannon will direct this Mainstage opener, and is excited to dive into this musical comedy with the cast and creative team. “The music is so incredibly fun, but if you listen closely to the lyrics, you’ll hear yearning, ecstasy, loneliness, and hope,” shared Cannon. “Likewise, these four women are experiencing incredible highs and devastating lows. That emotional truth is transformed into joy and friendship by the exuberance of the music.”
Returning to FST after her acclaimed performance in last summer’s box office hit, Always…Patsy Cline, is Meredith Jones, who plays class clown Betty Jean in The Marvelous Wonderettes. “Betty Jean uses her humor to cover up sadness and loneliness,” shared Jones. “She is a flawed human like all of us, so she’s very relatable to me. I’m excited to explore all sides of her.”
Cindy Lou will be played by Sarah Ledtke McCann, who was last seen as Velma Van Tussle in FST’s 2014 Winter Mainstage production of Hairspray. The roles of Missy and Suzy will be played by Ann Flanigan and Chelsea Turbin, respectively. Both are newcomers to FST.
With stellar talent, top jukebox hits of the ‘50s and ’60s, and heartwarming comedy, The Marvelous Wonderettes is a marvelous way to start off the summer.
The Marvelous Wonderettes begins in FST’s Gompertz Theatre May 29. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here or call 941-366-9000.