Using pop songs from the ’50s and ’60s as a vehicle to tell its story, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” will wrap up Millbrook Playhouse’s 52nd season with shows that start Aug. 14 in the Poorman Cabaret Theatre.
Written and created by Roger Bean, this smash off-Broadway hit takes you to the 1958 Springfield High School Prom where we meet The Wonderettes —Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzy — four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts, and voices to match.
Called upon to perform as a last-minute replacement, The Wonderettes rally together at prom to entertain their classmates in four-part harmony. The group competes for Prom Queen and learns each other’s deepest secrets in the process.
Act 2 moves forward to their 10th year class reunion, where everything has changed. Pregnancy, divorce and death have shaken their lives and has changed them for the better. As a result, these four high school friends have learned how to have each other’s backs and the true meaning of friendship.
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Playing “The Marvelous Wonderettes” are Katrina Diehm as Cindy Lou, Samantha Caroll as Missy, Kate Keating as Suzy and Shannon Agnew as Betty Jean. Musical arrangements are by Brian William Baker, orchestrations by Michael Borth, and vocal arrangements are by Roger Bean and Brian William Baker. This Millbrook production is directed and choreographed by Dax Valdes, with music directed by Martena Rodgers.
Catchy songs they sing during the course of the musical include: “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lipstick on Your Collar,” “It’s My Party” and “It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song).”
“Cindy Lou goes through a huge transformation in this show,” Diehm said. “She starts out as a teen who has gotten almost everything she has wanted up until the night of the Super Senior Prom. By the time Act 2 roles around she has lost some of the most important things in her life and has been really humbled.”
Diehm originally wanted to be an elementary school teacher with a double major in theater, but when she started at Penn State, she dropped Education after the first semester because all she wanted to do was perform. Next spring she will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Theater and a minor in Business and Liberal Arts with Honors.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I’ve been working professionally for 10 years and never get tired of it. I live to perform.”
The cast say they love having the opportunity to sing classic pop songs from another era.
“It is such a blast,” Carroll said. “I actually cannot choose whether I like singing ’50s or ’60s music better. They are so iconic and full of character and fit so adorably into our story.”
Carroll grew up in Long Island and received her bachelor’s degree in musical theater at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
Missy is a nerdy, awkward, born leader. She is in love with her high school choir teacher and eventually she becomes engaged to him.
“I love playing Missy because I can be myself,” Carroll said. “She is a definitely a heightened version of myself.”
All four girls sing in all of the songs, of which there are nearly 30 in the show.
“All of the songs have four-part harmony and matching dance moves, which we put together in 12 days,” Diehm said. “We have an incredible team at Millbrook; performers, designers and directors alike, and everyone works incredibly hard. These people pour everything into this.”
“We stay on stage the entire time and have to know a dance for each and every song,” Carroll said. “But it is extremely rewarding when it is all learned.”
While there may not be a clear message being conveyed with “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” the show encapsulates decades gone by and offers up fun new arrangements of bubble-gum pop that will surely put the audience in an amazing mood.
“For me it is all about acceptance,” Diehm said. “Learning to love and accept people exactly where they are in their lives, and of course a song to match.”