REVIEW — "The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns," written and created by Roger Bean, with vocal and musical arrangements by Michael Borth, is the newest installment of the adventures of four sweetly appealing high-school girls who get together in 1958 as a singing group.
Those audience-pleasing Marvelous Wonderettes are back at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. "The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns," written and created by Roger Bean, with vocal and musical arrangements by Michael Borth, is the newest installment of the adventures of four sweetly appealing high-school girls who get together in 1958 as a singing group.
It is a high-energy musical revue filled with bouncy, easy-listening hit songs from the '50s and '60s and amusing, synchronized "girl group" choreography.
This show takes us to the giddy moments of the girls' high-school graduation and then zooms forward a decade to a reunion and wedding celebration.
Melissa Rain Anderson — who directed the Cabaret's 2011 production of "The Marvelous Wonderettes" — directs and choreographs. Musical direction by Sarah Wussow.
Missy (Audra Cramer) is the sensible one, the super-achiever who keeps the group together. Her secret crush is the music teacher, Mr. Lee. Ten years later, we are invited to their wedding.
Cindy Lou (Emelie Faith Thompson) is the petulant beauty queen, used to being the center of attention and getting what she wants.
Betty Jean (Elyssa Renee Ramirez) is the brash rebel, chafing at always being in Cindy Lou's shadow.
And Suzy (Ally Young-Price) is adorable, ditzy and clueless.
This is Cramer's third appearance as Missy in a Cabaret production of the Wonderettes' saga; the other performers are making their Cabaret debuts.
All are trained musical-theater professionals, and the vocal range, dance skills and comedy timing of the four actors is truly impressive.
As the peppy sounds of early rock 'n' roll in the first act segue into disco sounds in the second, the show becomes a sort of fast-paced, toe-tapping memory tour of American pop music — everything from "Rock Around the Clock," "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "It's Only Make Believe" to "Dancin' in the Street," "The Look of Love," "You Keep me Hangin' On" and "River Deep, Mountain High" — with nods to "You Gotta Be a Football Hero" and a hilarious take on the familiar and much-imitated Cornell alma mater tune.
All of this is amusingly punctuated with color-coordinated costumes and props straight out of the period — hula hoops, crepe paper streams, bouffant hair, go-go boots and oversize sunglasses.
It's all there, courtesy of kitschy props, costumes designed by Kerri Lea Robbins and wigs by Beverly Hidde. Sean O'Skea did the authentic high school gymnasium set, complete with air raid shelter signs, wood flooring and rafters.
Bean is known as a creator of "jukebox musicals" — simple plot lines designed to showcase songs from the '50s and '60s.
The Cabaret offered the original "The Marvelous Wonderettes" in 2011, "The Winter Wonderettes" in 2012 as well as Bean's other shows, "Route 66" and "Honky Tonk Laundry."
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.