Monday, 15 April 2019

REVIEW: The Marvelous Wonderettes at Upstairs at The Gatehouse

Roger Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes has just opened its UK premiere Upstairs at The Gatehouse. Directed by Joseph Hodges, four students Missy (Sophie Camble), Cindy Lou (Rosie Needham), Betty Jean (Louise Young) and Suzy (Kara Taylor Alberts) are ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ and perform songs from the 50s and 60s.

The jukebox musical’s first act is set in 1958 at the Springfield High School’s Senior Prom. The storyline is weak, the songs are strung together with a bizarre mix of popularity, stealing boyfriends and being in love with a teacher. Unfortunately, this made the show overall quite boring as there was nothing to follow, the vocal arrangements and choreography were excellent but this was not enough to keep me wanting more. Act 2 is at the ten-year reunion of the four women in 1968. The story picks up and is much more dramatic (proposals, pregnancies, cheating) but didn’t grip me.

Camble’s Missy had great energy and was incredibly expressive throughout the show. She’s an excellent dancer and is a stand out performer. Needham’s flirty teen Cindy Lou was believable and amusing when feuding with Young’s Betty Jean. At times, Young over acted but it added interesting dynamics to the show. Taylor Alberts portrayal of Suzy was mixed, she did not give 100% consistently throughout the performance as she seemed a little nervous, but was really amazing when performing her solos. 

The band, directed by Lauren Ronan, were brilliant. As they were in view it would have been best if they had worn costumes (rather than white t shirt and black jeans) as it didn’t fit with the theme of the show. Occasionally the singers were drowned out by the musicians making it all too loud and a little painful on
the ears. Emily Bestow’s set and costume design was simple but effective. I loved the colour scheme but the costumes in the second act could have been adjusted as they weren’t the most flattering. 

The Marvellous Wonderettes is a lot of fun, mostly for older audiences who are reminiscent of 50s and 60s music. There were quite a few giggles when audience members were picked out as their love interests and were integrated in the show. The performers’ voices were the best part of the show, but the content could have been otherwise improved. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Back Row | Price of Ticket: £20

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