Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Light Hearts and Chewing Gum: The Marvelous Wonderettes harmonize their way into The Candlelight Pavilion
There are any number of reasons to go to the theater, from a need to be educated to a desire for pure entertainment. For those who like their live performance on the lighter side, The Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont offers not only hearty musical fare, but the last mainstream opportunity to experience that specialized full-body theatrical experience: the dinner theater.
An example of Candlelight’s fine recent pairing of dinner and highly polished froth comes with “The Marvelous Wondrettes” – the salute to 50s and 60s close-harmony hits which has enjoyed other extensive runs in Southern California. Sporting a comparatively polished and accomplished cast, this silly show has much to recommend it, including an actual plot. This alone puts it far above most nostalgic pop hit musical entertainments.
As for the plot, it is simple but it works. Drafted at the last minute to be the musical entertainment at their 1958 prom, the four friends who call themselves The Marvelous Wonderettes sing old favorites from “Mr. Sandman” to “All I Have to Do is Dream”. As they do, the drama of high school senior life colors their performances and enhances the meanings of many of the classic tunes.
This is followed after intermission with their 10th reunion, and another slew of hits (“You Don’t Own Me, “Leader of the Pack,” “Rescue Me,” etc.) as we catch up with what the girls have become.
Quite frankly, the success or failure of this show rests most squarely on the quality of the singing.The four-woman cast of Katie DeShan, Hilary Maiberger, Colette Peters and Jennifer Strattan have found a lovely musical balance, and the close harmony of many of these familiar tunes sounds deceptively effortless.
Beyond this, all four have a solid feel for the period, and for the fine balance of humor and earnest sincerity which makes this work. Under the direction of Daniel Thomas and musical director Allen Everman, and choreographer Jenn Aedo, they move as teenagers would if imitating recording groups of the time. Their reactions to their interpersonal dramas feel genuine, even when silly, as does their innocence.
As with anything which really focuses on the silliness of teenage life, it is a challenge to have the same performers reappear as grownups. This group does so with convincing-enough success to allow the transition to be palatable, while still retaining enough of the innocent charm to keep the story essentially light.
Put this charming, if not particularly deep little musical together with a reasonably good meal and you have a non-taxing, cheerful way to spend an evening. And that is often the great charm of a dinner theater, particularly at the Candlelight Pavilion where the food is good enough to make the combination worth the trip.
What: “The Marvelous Wonderettes” When: Through October 2, dinner seating 6 p.m., curtain at 8:15 Thursdays through Saturdays; dinner seating 5 p.m., curtain at 7:15 Sundays, luncheon seating 11 a.m., curtain at 12:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont How Much: $48 – $68, dinner inclusive Info: (909) 626-1254, ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com