The faux musical group who lend their name to this musical-comedy-drama is The Marvelous Wonderettes; it premiered in Milwaukee in 1999. Currently gracing the stage at the Hill Country Community Theatre, this is a truly marvelous walk down the memory lane of torch ballads from the 50s and 60s. From lovesick puppy love to the bike crash that ends of the career of the Leader of the Pack, it’s all here, and it’s marvelous.
In any bubbly production, one can simply enjoy the froth of the waves and be carried away on a surfboard of lovely tunes from yesteryear. But as anyone who has surfed the waves will know, there is a fine balancing act between the joy of riding the crest, and tipping over into a potentially dangerous ocean below. This analogy best illustrates the lives of the four young ladies on display here, as we see them first as high-schoolers in 1958, and then in the second Act at a reunion in 1968.
The music of the 50s exude the optimism of young love, while the music of the 60s evoke a harsher reality. One of our four intrepid ladies is now a widow, another one has been abandoned by her man, a third is pregnant but dealing with a man who may no longer love her, while the fourth has a happier fate.
The show included some audience participation, with one middle-aged fellow getting up on stage twice in the persona of Mr. Lee, who was a teenage crush by one or more of them. This was quite fun, and added a nice dash to the show; he was the only man on stage. Here are a few excerpts from a flyer each member of the audience got to enable them to vote for Prom Queen:
The cast is Christine Ashbaugh as Missy. “I’m so lucky to be a natural-born leader and just love organizing and telling everybody what to do.”
Ava Siera as Cindy Lou. “I hope to shatter the pre-conceived image of prom queen, and when chosen, will use my intelligence, poise, grace, and beauty to bring happiness to those who are less fortunate than I.”
Christy Brown as Betty Jean. “I’m up for prom queen? That’s about the coolest thing EVER!”
Heidi Eubanks as Suzy. She loves dressing up, and having friends over to play records in her basement rec room. She’s good with scissors and glue and helped Missy put together the decorations for tonight’s prom. “L-O-V-E. That spells Love!”
The music itself was just as marvelous as the group. Sometimes it takes only one song to bring back a thousand memories. Music can activate the hippocampus of the brain and allow recall of past experiences. In song after song the audience was transported back in time to their youth (I think most present, older than me, were able to recall the 1950s). It was evident they were lost in thought as they reacted to the different songs, sung with naïve charm by the cast members. Their renditions of the golden oldies was spot on. While the plot was a bit thin, it could easily be forgiven with tunes like It’s in His Kiss, Dream Lover, Allegheny Moon, Mr. Sandman, Lollipop and I Only Want to Be With You. A delightful show, go see it!
The production is being generously underwritten by the TND Family Foundation.
Show is at: 4003 W FM 2147
Horseshoe Bay, TX, 78657
For tickets: www.thehcct.org
The musical runs thru Feb. 18, 2024