May 5, 2013
For some of us the thought of a High School reunion is terrifying. We left that gymnasium X number of years ago and aren’t too hyped about a return trip. For four girls from the fictional Springfield High, it’s another story.
On Wednesday, May 1, the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati held the regional premiere of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns. The musical starts in 1958 on graduation day and Act II picks up in 1968 at the 10-year reunion, which also just so happens to be the wedding of one of the girls to their former teacher, Mr. Lee.
This show is FUN. There is no getting around that. But if you’re looking for more substance than cupcakes, bright colors, and catchy tunes, this is not the place where you’ll find it. Watching the performers, each girl with her own stereotype to play, I tried to figure out who in my own group of high school friends was who.
There’s Cindy Lou played by Denise Devlin who returns to the ETC to reprise her role from the original show, The Wonderettes. That’s right this is a sequel from playwright Roger Bean. Anyway, Cindy Lou is the pretty girl. Not sure if I got the quote exactly, but at one point she says something like this, “My mom didn’t teach me to be nice, she taught me to be pretty.” That about sums her up.
Then, there’s Betty Jean played by Sara Mackie. She’s the tough cookie of the group, but as hard as she might seem on the outside, there is definitely a layer of emotional mush once you get to know her secret. Leslie Goddard makes her Ensemble debut as Missy. As the smarty pants / goodie two shoes, it might come as a surprise that she marries her former teacher, but then again she is mature beyond her years so I guess it would have always been an older man to appease her appetite. Finally, we have Brooke Rucidlo Steele who plays the role of Suzy to round out the cast. Suzy is the blonde bubble gum blowing ditz who you can’t help but love.
While the entire cast does a phenomenal job, I’d venture to say I’m not the only ones who think Missy and Suzy are the standout characters in the show. There’s something about flighty la la land females that makes them continually entertaining. Think Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. They are easy to root for, offer comic relief and usually have a good moral compass even if they lack the brain power to define the word “compass.”
When it comes to Missy, she’s a firecracker. Throughout the show she says “1-2-3 eyes on me,” a phrase that embodies the teacher’s pet, project leader that she is and the character type we all knew in high school. There was one in every class. (The girl from my class was named Lisa Pinkerton.)
Regarding the vast lineup of songs, here is a short list of ones that I loved…
Springfield Alma Mater - (Ensemble) I only highlight this song because it has the same melody as a song from Dirty Dancing, the one that goes “Kellermans we come together singing all as one / We have shared another seasons talent, play and fun…”
Don’t Mess With Bill – (Missy, Ensemble) Missy directs this song at a young student, who just like her, 10 years prior has an eye for the older man/teacher, Mr. Lee.
Good Lovin’ – (Suzy, Ensemble) Suzy breaks out her soulful voice and tells the audience how she fixed her “Post Party Depression” following the birth of her twins. Basically, a little good lovin’ from hubby Richie does the trick.
River Deep, Mountain High – (Missy, Ensemble) This song closes out the show and is hard not to be a crowd favorite.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is playing now through June 1 at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (1127 Vine St.)to top ↑