THE BLOG

Off-Broadway's Wonderettes Closing Its Gym Doors

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • James Sims Content Strategy Director, Center Theatre Group

Move over Rydell High, there is a new group of singing teenage starlets on stage hailing from Springfield High, and they are making audiences flip as they relive their 1958 Senior Prom to some doo-wop classics.

Off-Broadway's The Marvelous Wonderettes has been playing to enthusiastic crowds at The Westside Theatre since it settled in New York City following an extended run in Los Angeles -- where I first saw the show and fell in love. Word has now come down that the quaint musical will close on January 3 after having played 545 performances.

Cindy Lou, Missy, Betty Jean and Suzy dredge up repressed memories of prom nightmares and mishaps in an addictively saccharine fashion each night, finding a way to pack in an innumerable list of nostalgic melodies of the Brylcreem and bubblegum era.

For the first half of the evening, the Wonderettes take the stage at their Senior Prom as the musical entertainment, having had to fill in last minute for The Crooning Crabcakes, who suddenly fall ill and are unable to perform. Chalk it up to short notice and a lack of rehearsal time, or perhaps just having blind ambition, but the four lovely ladies might just go down in the pantheon of infamously bad prom acts.

Catty tiffs and spot-light stealing behavior lead to a breakdown between the girls as the evening drags on, before finally storming off stage as the first act draws to a close. But never fear, Springfield High's 10-year reunion brings the girls back together again, in their now vogue facades as they discover the meaning of true friendship, but not before reverting to their immature ways once or twice for good measure.

Never has "jukebox" musical been more apropos, as the songs pouring out of The Marvelous Wonderettes were spinning in neon music machines at diners across America through the fabulous '50s, including such kitschy classics as "Lollipop," "Dream Lover," "Stupid Cupid," "Lipstick on Your Collar," "It's my Party" and "It's In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)" to name only a handful sung during the show. It does not take long for the infectious tunes to get toes tapping and bubblegum popping.

Writer/Director Roger Bean (Route 66, Winter Wonderettes, The Andrews Brothers) pays polite service to the nostalgic past in Wonderettes, although as with most jukebox musicals, the book is somewhat lacking in substance, merely skipping from one song to the next. In the case of Wonderettes, however, the fun is in the music, and Bean knows how to accentuate the positive.