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‘Wonderettes’ are wonderful

Sweetness and classic songs from the ’50s and ’60s

Posted: August 3, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: August 3, 2012 6:00 a.m.
From left, Catherine Birdsong, Courtney Potter, Sarah Lang and Marie Wise-Hawkins as the Wonderettes. From left, Catherine Birdsong, Courtney Potter, Sarah Lang and Marie Wise-Hawkins as the Wonderettes.
From left, Catherine Birdsong, Courtney Potter, Sarah Lang and Marie Wise-Hawkins as the Wonderettes.

Four talented actress/singers, one costume change, one slight set change and a whole lot of great music and lighthearted fun — that’s the short story for “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” The long story is … well, there isn’t one.

And who needs one, really?

Charming, nostalgic, cute and cheery, with the occasional “drama” falling with the softness of a cotton ball, “Wonderettes” wraps around you like a hug.

Act one takes place in 1958 in the Springfield High School Gymnasium, as The Marvelous Wonderettes, a four-girl singing group, perform at their own senior prom. Act two finds the same ladies performing on the same stage, at their 10-year class reunion, in 1968. There are no other official actors, although “Richie” and “Johnny” are alluded to, but never seen, and Johnny charmingly offers his “comments” by winking the house lights. And, on opening night last Saturday, the SCV’s own Duane Harte was drafted into the show more than once as Mr. Lee — which added some down-home humor. (Good job Duane.)

Classic songs from both decades set the mood and make the show. And the personal interactions among the girls offer up the humor and what minimal dramatic tension there is.

“It feels good to take a visit back to a time when you could leave your doors unlocked. It was a kinder, gentler time in life,” Director Greg Finley said. “And it’s the music of my youth,” he added.

That music includes, among others, such classics of harmony as “Mr. Sandman,” “Lollipop,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Born Too Late,” “It’s In His Kiss,” “It’s My Party,” “Sincerely,” “Son of A Preacher Man” and “Wedding Bell Blues.” And you’ll probably find audience members around you tapping their toes and even singing softly along with the girls. It’s almost impossible not to get swept up in all that “feel good” Finley was talking about.

While the songs automatically carry the attraction of nostalgia, their presentation is key, and the music in this production is spot-on. So is the choreography, well-timed and cute, and Finley couldn’t say enough good things about the work of his assistant director and choreographer, Musette Caing. “She is emblazoned on every number,” he noted.

“It’s been such a great experience,” Finley said of directing the show, “the casting, the stage … I just was so lucky.” He said he was especially fortunate to be able to assemble the talented group of women to play the Wonderettes, and, indeed, it would seem so. All four women had good singing voices, and their harmonies were fantastic. Additionally, each actress brought her character humorously alive.

Courtney Potter played Missy Miller, the “leader” of the Wonderettes, who made the most of every opportunity to point out her accomplishments, prom-committee-wise, and who constantly teetered on the edge of fluster, owing to the conflicting egos of her fellow singers. Blinking behind cat-eye glasses, Potter is an endearing ball of energy.

Catherine Birdsong played Cindy Lou Huffington, whose prom bio notes that she is “proud to be the prettiest girl at Springfield High School.” Birdsong brings Cindy Lou an air of stuck-up entitlement, but with enough vulnerability to remain likeable, even when her romances “overlap” with those of her song-mates.

Marie Wise-Hawkins played Betty Jean Reynolds, the girl with the rough edges, like she was born to it. And her powerful voice still had the note of twang that those who saw her in “Always … Patsy Cline” will remember.

Sarah Lang played Suzy Simpson, whose prom bio notes that she was “grand champion bubble-blower at last year’s state fair.” Lang brings this “bubble-head” a vulnerable and charming sweetness that plays well in many humorous moments.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is beautiful, wistful harmony frosted with sweet innocence. As such, it provides an easy evening of frivolous fun — just the kind of thing one might need at the end of a long work week. And if you like the classics from the ’50s and ’60s, this is a must-see musical.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” continues at the Canyon Theatre Guild through Sept. 1, with performances on Fridays, Aug. 24 and 31 at 8 p.m., Saturdays, Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25, and Sept. 1, at 8 p.m., and Sundays, Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $17. The CTG is located at 24242 Main St., Newhall, CA 91321. The box office phone is 661-799-2702. Visit


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