San Diego, CA— (If) life could be a dream, Sha-Boom we could all go back to our high school days and relive the past, ‘Hey nonny ding dong, alang alang …’
Roger Bean’s “The Marvelous Wonderettes” with musical arrangements by Brian William Baker and Michael Broth’s orchestrations is currently being given a “Sugar and Spice” rendering at the North Park Birch Theatre as The San Diego Musical Theatre kicks off its first show of the season with “Lollypop” and “Sugartime”. They are the two opening numbers of the retro 1958 Springfield High prom night festivities starring the Marvelous Wonderettes, where “Chipmunk Cheer” and “Allegheny Moon”, “All I Have to do Is Dream”, “Lucky Lips” and “Sincerely” are among the top ten on the musical charts.
The show played off Broadway with our own Bets Malone, whom many of us have seen over the years in both Moonlight and Starlight Theatre productions (also choreographed and co directed the show) and Misty Cotton, a native of Oceanside was seen more recently at The Moonlight Amphitheatre production of this same show. So it must be in the blood.
The four girls are typical high school archetypes. Betty Jean is the tomboy of the group, Suzy is the flaky one, Cindy Lou is the DIVA and Missy is the mousy nerd. They follow that type throughout the show. Each has a boy ‘situation’ that keeps cropping up in between musical numbers. The most noted is Suzy’s boyfriend, Richie, because he’s running the lights for the show and every time she makes mention of him the lights flicker. All the small talk about their lives becomes a setup for the next group of songs. The girls are best friends but have their share of squabbles that oft times spill over into the show and match up with the next musical group of songs.
In between the thirty or so pop songs from the 50’s in the first half and 60’s in Act II, the quartet consisting of Missy in tangerine (Misty Cotton), Betty Jean in green (Beth Malone), Suzy in blue (Bets Malone) and Cindy Lou in pink (Lowe Taylor) enter onto the stage, er high school gym (appropriate high school décor by Michael Carnahan) in their color coordinated outfits (Bobby Pearce) to entertain the students. They are last minute replacements for the ‘Crooning Crabcakes’ who were supposed to entertain but got bumped because the lead Crab, Billy Ray Patton, got busted for smoking in back of the girls’ locker room.
Act II takes place ten years later at their ten year reunion and oh! how things have changed. The costumes and the hair do’s are right out of a Supremes playbook and they look great on the girls. But ten years older doesn’t necessarily make them that much the wiser. So here goes.
Suzy never went on to college but married the lighting guy who now refuses to acknowledge her references to him. She also has a big tummy to show for it, but the marriage is in trouble. Missy’s relationship is a big secret that we find out about just toward the end. Betty Jean’s beau cheated on her and Cindy Lou has her own set of tzorus. It’s tough being out there in this wild and wooly world of ‘after high school’.
It is a great vehicle for these young women to show their talent and have fun at the same time. The bare thread story line remains true to each of the gals as they define themselves by what they say to and about each other. They are simply amazing at harmonizing as well as putting over a solo. More than anything it’s a pleasant 50’s musical revue.
All four are exceptionally talented singers and comedians, a winning combination in a musical comedy such as this. Bets Malone has been connected to the show for about ten years when Bean was a professor of hers at Southern Utah University. Bets was in the off Broadway production and Lowe Taylor played the same role in The Musical Theatre West just recently. Misty (as mentioned before) was in the Moonlight production just last summer and Beth Malone (no relation to Bets) was also in the off Broadway show. None of these women is a stranger to the show and that can explain how comfortable they are with it.
Musical director Don Le Master is at his finest with this show as he guides four piece band and the gals through some of my very favorites: “Mr. Sandman”, “Dream Lover”, “Secret Love”, “Teacher’s Pet”, “Hold Me. Thrill Me, Kiss Me”, “You Don’t Own Me”, “It’s My Party”, Respect” and “Sincerely”.
As a product of the 50’s, yes, I was in high school in the 50’s, I can appreciate the music and the nostalgia. The harmony is terrific and each of the gals can belt a tune out of the gymnasium. Bets Malone’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” that ended the first act struck right at the heart strings and Cotton’s “Secret Love” made me melt. “Teachers Pet” and “Dream Lover” also made my list of favorites. And yes, we did slow dance to those tunes
San Diego Musical Theatre will be producing the rest of their season in the Birch, which they will be calling home for a while.
“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is a fluffy, yet well-oiled nostalgia trip down memory lane especially for those of us old enough to remember that ‘Sha Boom’ is not a jet engine backfiring. Enjoy!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: through Feb. 26th—-Thurs. Fri. Sat @ 8PM: Sundays @ 2PM Feb. 18th @2PM
Organization: San Diego Musical Theatre
Production Type: Musical
Where: Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave., North Park
Ticket Prices: $26.00-$52.00