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“The Marvelous Wonderettes” (Gem Theater, Detroit) is a delightful, colorful, tuneful treat (Review) February 6, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.

Approaching The Marvelous Wonderettes at the Gem Theatre (Fresh from New York City where it closed off-Broadway in January) is like dipping your hand into one of those Valentine’s Day bags of printed candy hearts….colorful, funny, and overall quite tasty. It’s also a bag full of sugar — and sugar is what you get in this tuneful and funny production, directed by Tony-winner Hinton Battle.

The four-girl New York City based cast is, in two words, marvelous and wonderful. Gretchen Bieber, Holly Davis, Marley DelDuchetto and Laura Hall are basically interchangeable in this all-singing all-dancing all-one-liner-joke telling musical written by Roger Bean, originally for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, with eventual mountings in Los Angeles, and then off-Broadway NYC. It’s been an audience and critics darling since. Songs from the cast album are in constant rotation on Sirius XM’s “On Broadway” channel, so it’s well known to theatre folks at this point.

The first half of the production takes place in 1958, the second half a decade later. The girls sing popular songs of the 50’s and early 60’s, tell their stories, complain about prom rituals, and eventually growing up. There isn’t much serious here to ponder (not that there isn’t a moment or two of pathos, especially in the later goings of the second act when the girls bicker about boyfriends, marriages, and possible divorces). But basically this is just fun. It’s amusement-park entertainment taken to a much more professional level. It borrows generously from twenty other musicals, movies, and even glee club.

Seriously, the show is generally critic proof, and I’m not going to even try to poke holes in its occasional lapses of logic. It’s not about that — it’s about the songs. It’s about the moves. It’s about the colors. And it’s about sending the audience home floating on a cloud of nostalgia. It’s hard to say this is a don’t miss musical. It’s also hard to say it’s not a don’t miss musical. It’s the female equivalent of “Forever Plaid”. It’s really more of a concert-ical than a mus-ical…but it’s so well performed it makes you feel warm all over on a cold Detroit night…The audience at Friday night’s performance just ate it up, and if it’s any indication, the word of mouth will keep this musical entertainment going for quite some time.

The Marvelous Wonderettes is at the Gem Theatre for an open-ended run. Tickets are available at the Gem Theatre box office (313) 963-9800 or Ticketmaster.


1. Chris - April 19, 2010

Saw it in NYC and loved it! It’s so much fun, and appeals to everyone from sophisticates to theatrical neophytes. All four cast members are unusually extraordinarily gifted. The creators were wise to keep the libretto thin in order to focus the attention on the performers. It is the female version of Forever Plaid, and I hope it runs forever.

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