REVIEW: Mill Town Players Open Season with Winsome ‘Wonderettes’

Amy Blom, Laura Beth Cannon, Laura Bennett and Kelsey Crews at Mill Town Players.
Photo credit: Escobar Photography BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Falling right on the high heels and very high bar of the season-ending “Beehive: The 60s Musical” at Mill Town Players is the girl-group jukebox musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

This popular show written and created by Roger Bean is likely not well-known to Pelzer audiences, but its slate of  1950s bubble gum pop ditties sure are.

Act one is set at the 1958 senior prom at Springfield High School in Anywhere, USA where the Songleader Squad, The Wonderettes – errr the “Marvelous” Wonderettes  – are last minute replacements for the evening’s entertainment.

And does this young quartet (all future, present or former Anderson University students) entertain us in their color-coordinated prom dresses: the bossy ringleader Missy (Kelsey Crews in her MTP debut), the cut-up Betty Jean (Laura Bennett, who plays harmonica in one song), the boyfriend-stealing Cindy Lou (Amy Bloom) and the slow-witted and bubble-gum chewing Suzy.

In between four-part harmonies on sugary concoctions like “Lollipop,” “Sugartime,” and “Stupid Cupid,” the squeaky-clean girls offer insight on their friendship, rivalries and flaws, as well as fellow classmates (Judy with the “mole” and the glee club’s leader Billy Ray Patton who was caught smoking) and teachers like French instructor  Miss McPhereson and Mr. Lee (an unsuspecting fellow in the audience), whom all the girls have a crush on, especially Miss Crews’ Missy, who even croons about him in a fantastic and stirring rendition of “Secret Love.”

The musical direction (Chase McAbee) is sound and the stacked harmonies ate lush in the “Wonderettes” with over 30 classics from the 1950s and 1960s.  And though some of the gang’s jokes did fall flat early in the show on the Hurricane Florence-reduced audience on Saturday night, patrons eventually came around.

The “Heat Wave” turns up in Act two set 10 years later at the high school reunion as the ladies have matured and recount their varied paths in life. Most astute and full of laughs is Cannon’s Suzy, who shows up pregnant and in slippers, carrying her White go-go boots because she is too exhausted to put them on. Here the gals launch into songs of love, marriage and determination: “It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song),” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “You Don’t Own Me.”.

But all in all, the Wonderettes, directed by Terrie West Poore, are …well, Marvelous. Simply Marvelous.

Kudos as well to the precious heart-shaped stage set by Will Ragland and full-scale brick walls of the school gymnasium. It was well into the second act when I realized the wall was not that of the real auditorium.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” continue through Sept. 30 at the Historic Pelzer Auditorium, 214 Lebby Street in Pelzer. For tickets, call 864) 947-8000 or visit www.milltownplayers.org.

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