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Sunday
Sep162018

Wonderettes Sock Hops into Music, Nostalgia

By Paul Hyde/Anderson Observer

The Mill Town Players has enjoyed great success recently with nostalgic jukebox musicals. In July, the irresistible "Beehive" took audiences back to the pop songs of the 1960s.

"The Marvelous Wonderettes," which opened Friday, journeys back further -- to the 1950s -- with charm and feel-good glee.

Terrie West Poore directs a quartet of talented local actresses in this blithe and peppy production that evokes a simpler time, tugging ever-so-lightly at the heartstrings as it puts a smile on your face.

"The Marvelous Wonderettes," written by Roger Bean, focuses on four high school students who are called on to perform at their 1958 senior prom as a last-minute replacement. That setup allows for some cutesy high jinks and comic awkwardness as the girls entertain their "classmates" (the audience, that is) with songs in close four-part harmony.

The story is told through more than two dozen familiar pop tunes from the 1950s and 60s, such as "Lollipop," "Dream Lover," "Stupid Cupid," "It's My Party" and "It's In His Kiss."

Act II finds the girls 10 years later, returning for their class reunion. The easy cares of their teenage years have been replaced by bigger real-life issues, particularly romantic disappointments.

But in this joyful musical, it's a pretty safe bet that love will find a way.

The show makes considerable demands on its four actresses, who never leave the stage -- well, except to interact with the audience.

There were a few rough patches at Friday's opening, but continued performances should tighten things up.

Poore, the director, has assembled a winning cast. As an ensemble, the four produce some lovely sounds. To mention one episode: The shimmering, yearning harmonies of "Dream" which morph into "Dream Lover" are pure magic.

Poore's spirited choreography evokes 1950s and 60s social dances. She elicits vivid performances from her four actresses. Each enjoys a few solo moments in the spotlight.

Amy Blom, as Cindy Lou, is marvelous as the would-be high school princess, perfectly coiffed and with perfect teeth always beaming. She seems to channel Amy Adams from the film "Enchanted." Blom has a ballet dancer's arms, which she puts to graceful use in her pretty "Allegheny Moon." In Act II, she sings a heartfelt "Maybe."

Laura Bennett plays Betty Jean, the delightful cutup of the quartet. Vocally, Bennett soars on "That's When the Tears Start."

Kelsey Crews, as Missy, delivers an assertive "Wedding Bell Blues" and follows that with "You Don't Own Me," knocking it out of the park.

Laura Beth Cannon, as Suzy, closes the revels with a dynamite "RESPECT."

Chase McAbee is responsible for the fine musical direction -- and he also serves as stage manager and light board technician.

The show makes use of recorded music, which is not as appealing as live music, but it works.

Will Ragland designed the pleasing, heart-themed set.

This crowd-pleasing "Marvelous Wonderettes" continues through Sept. 30: Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. For tickets, call 864-947-8000 or visit the website www.milltownplayers.org.

Paul Hyde, a veteran Upstate journalist, writes about everything under the South Carolina sun. Write to him at paulhydeus@yahoo.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

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