Review: “The Marvelous Wonderettes” in Napa

Napa’s Lucky Penny Community Arts Center has been transformed into a high school gymnasium dolled up for the prom for their presentation of Roger Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes. The nostalgic jukebox musical runs through Mar. 13.

It’s 1958 and Springfield High’s Songleader Squad has been asked to entertain at the Senior Prom. The four perky squad members (Vida Mae Fernandez, Jenny Veilleux, Andrea Dennison-Laufer, Kirsten Pieschke) have dubbed themselves “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and are prepared to sing a plethora of ‘50’s hits for their classmates’ entertainment.

They’ll also musically deal with young love (“Dream Lover”, “Stupid Cupid”), cheating boyfriends (“Lipstick on Your Collar”), and clandestine crushes (“Secret Love”), especially the ones that involve a member of the teaching staff (“Born Too Late”, “Teacher’s Pet”).

Jenny Veilleux, Vida Mae Fernandez, Andrea Dennison-Laufer, Kirsten Pieschke

The Wonderettes return to the Springfield gymnasium in the second act to entertain at the class of ‘58’s ten-year reunion. They’re older, somewhat wiser, married and in one case, pregnant.  

While it’s 1968, song-wise it’s the early sixties as the girls musically relate the changes in their lives. Missy (Veilleux) has been dating the teacher of her dreams (it’s ok, they waited till she was out of college) and has expectations of an engagement (“With This Ring”). Betty Jean (Dennison-Laufer) is having relationship problems (“It’s My Party”), Cindy Lou (Fernandez) snagged the “Son of a Preacher Man”, but ended up losing the “Leader of the Pack”, and all is not well with Suzy (Pieschke) and her high school sweetheart as she demands a little “Respect”.

Director/Choreographer Scottie Woodard, having recently performed in a similarly-constructed show about a male singing group (Plaid Tidings), no doubt brought that experience and an appreciation for the material to this production. He also brought one performer (Veilleux) over from Bean’s holiday extension of the show (Winter Wonderettes) that ran in rep with Tidings to reprise her character.

The ladies are in good voice and complement each other well. Music Director Ellen Patterson leads a jaunty three-piece band through the classic pop score. Barbara McFadden drapes the ladies in era-appropriate attire from colorful prom gowns to vinyl go-go boots. Brian Watson’s set manages to squeeze all the elements of a cavernous high school gymnasium into the small Lucky Penny space.  

Yes, the story is slight, but that’s not the point. It’s all about the songs, and the overwhelmingly baby-boomerish audience bopped along with each tune.  A good time was had by all.

‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ runs through Mar. 13 at the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center. 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. Thurs, 7pm; Fri–Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$42. 707.266.6305. Proof of vaccination and masking are required to attend. luckypennynapa.com

Photos by Barry Martin

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun.

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