The Marvelous Wonderettes

‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ is a jukebox musical arranged by American Roger Bean and based on his own book. Although Roger was not even born when most of the show’s 30 songs were in the Hit Parade – he was only 60 this year – the section that he has cleverly worked into the script are not merely old songs, every single one is a classic.

The term ‘with all your old favourites’ unusually means a couple of tunes that you might know. Here however, as most of the audience were over 50, they will have known every word of each memorable song; but with the cast members being much younger, they will have had to learn every word of the songs.

With this genre of musical, often an audience join in, but such was the quality of the singing and backing that everyone sat entranced, soaking in every note and no doubt recalling who they were with or what they were doing, when each song was released.

In 1999, with some trepidation, Bean produced and directed this fun show Off-Broadway in New York City. He worried in case the show would not take off, but it went on to do 1,200 performances. In 2007 it won LA’s Best Musical award

This production was presented by Primadonna Productions in a community partnership with the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. The show played to full houses, with two performances on Friday 10th June at 2.00 and 7.30 pm, two more memory-lane shows on Saturday 11th June and a matinée on Sunday 12th June.

The Scene:           Springfield High School Gymnasium. Act 1 is 1958 and Act 2 a decade later 1968.

The set:                The stage is surrounded in black drapes. A two-tier dais with four mic stands. To the side are tables with props. In Act 2 an orange lava lamp brought a smile. A three-metre-high white banner announces, ‘Springfield’s Prom 1958’.

Stage manager: Accomplished actor Angela Edwards and her production assistant Steven Jones refreshed the props

Programme artwork:     Randall Jones (G-force Printing) and show photographs Gemma and Connie Little.

Promo video:     Siân Dhu (Wake)

Costumes:           Beautiful outfits by Tammy Peckover and Murray Music and Drama Club

The superb Rock Combo with Brian William Baker’s backing had a full orchestra feel and was true to the original records. This disc was supplied as part of the performing licence.

We find ourselves in the gymnasium of Springfield High School and the 1958 Senior Prom entertainment is about to begin. The lights dim. Four best – well variable – friends in stunning sequinned dresses step up to their individual stand microphones. They are Betty Jean (Gemma Little) a girl with a stunning voice yet who seems to miss out on romance, she is dressed in dark green. Next is blonde Cindy Lou (Bella Lambert) the selfish, self-appointed leader of the quartet in a deep rose gown; she is followed by quiet Missy (Caris Reid) with black hair and a champagne dress. Then in powder blue, there is outgoing Suzy (Siân Dhu/ Wake). Poor Suzy is highly enthusiastic but lacks the subtlety of delivering her musical offering, but her presence is appreciated by her beloved Ritchie who is operating the stage lights. They open with a song of hope for their futures, ‘Mr. Sandman’. We watch them sing their repertoire dedicated to the various boys in their lives, with classics like ‘Dreamlover’ and ’Lollipop’.

We learn that thanks to their teacher, Mr Lee (who is played by a poor unsuspecting audience member, well done Peter you were a good sport) whom they had a crush on, they won a third-place trophy.

In Act 2, the Wonderettes reunite a decade later for Springfield High’s special 10-year reunion. Now as mature women they are asked to return as the evening’s entertainment. We hear of their loves and heartaches. Yes, one even married the son of a preacher man – cue music!

Director Carole Dhu has been an actor for decades, appearing in everything from high drama to comedy. Recently she has been concentrating on musicals and has earned quite a reputation for giving youngsters a break and helping older performers hone their skills.

These four actors have been real-life friends, performing together for 20 years; and this friendship showed in the slickness of their tightknit performances. Each radiated warmth, had all the trendy hand movements and body quivers that made us desirable to the opposite sex. Great comedy interplay.

Most importantly, when you go to see a stage version of a TV series such as ‘Blackadder’ or ‘Are You Being Served?’ there are unreasonable expectations of seeing exactly the same characters. Likewise, when you have played records for 50 years and you know every doo-wah, the thought of a bunch of young girls who probably wouldn’t recognise the singer’s photo if it hit them in the face, presenting your treasured memories linked to each song, was definitely a worry. Several times I closed my eyes and just listened – the crystal voices, the phrasing and rich depth of the vocals with music combined, was precisely what the audience hoped for – and received. Absolutely amazing. Loved every second. For many of us, the revived fond memories will last for quite a while.

I saw the show on a day of storms. The theatre car park was 30% flooded and yet the audience stepped out after the show with broad grins and a tap in their feet.

Roger Bean wrote several sequels to this fabulous show along with other Juke Box Musicals, let’s hope we get another in Mandurah soon. In the meanwhile, this show should travel to Koorliny and into Perth (Camelot?) for a brief season, it was a real uplift in times of depressing news. Fabulous.


  1. Thanks Gordon, for coming down on such a rotten afternoon weather wise, and giving us such a cracking review!

Comments are closed.