The Marvelous Wonderettes at Upstairs at the Gatehouse
In 1998 Roger Bean was asked to write a musical about high-school song leaders of the 1950s and 1960s and the result is this comedy jukebox show. Initially a one act piece, The Marvelous Wonderettes has since evolved into two acts with an extensive repertoire of hits from that period. The show ran for two years off Broadway, enjoying a revival in 2016, and is now making its UK premiere at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Four high-schoolers reminisce on their loves and friendships through the medium of song on their prom night. Unsuspecting audience members are chosen as paramours to be serenaded, undoubtedly having the time of their lives. All four actors have powerful musical theatre voices, with Kara Taylor Alberts as Suzy displaying the greatest vocals. Louise Young is very funny as rebellious Betty Jean, who has a delightfully unhinged tinge. She constantly tries to undermine best friend and biggest rival Cyndi Lou with various props, such as when she has a tambourine tantrum during one of her rival’s solos, which results in the others wrestling her to the ground and her being unceremoniously de-tambourined. A great bit of physical comedy. Rosie Needham as Cyndi Lou is all compact sass and perky insouciance, while Sophie Camble plays group leader Missy with spirit and an arresting soprano.
The sixties standards on show are always worth hearing live and the band – two keyboards, guitar and a selection of saxophones – add magic to the piece. A particular highlight is Cyndi Lou’s Leader of the Pack, which Needham performs in oversized leather jacket and cat’s eye sunglasses, and with delicious attitude. Another stand-out number is Betty Jean’s furious Lipstick on Your Collar at the errant Johnny, while a rendition of Allegheny Moon adds a less well known song to the mix.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is a bright and accomplished celebration of a peerless musical era.
The Marvelous Wonderettes is at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 9th April until 10th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.