St. Vincent's 'Wonderettes' mix nostalgia with '50's, '60's hits
St. Vincent Summer Theatre will open its 47th season May 28 with “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” a nostalgic musical that takes audiences back to the 1950s and '60s via a quartet of energetic young women with stars in their eyes and romance in their hearts.
The show begins at the 1958 Springfield High School prom, where the Wonderettes perform for their classmates. The girls' loves, ambitions and rivalries are revealed as they sing '50s favorites such as “Mr. Sandman,” “Lollipop,” “Lipstick on Your Collar” and “Sincerely.”
Act 2 takes place 10 years later at their class reunion, where the Wonderettes once again take the stage. This time, their stories are updated with '60s hits including “Heat Wave,” “It's My Party” and “Leader of the Pack.”
“It has a lot of great music from the '50s and '60s,” director Greggory Brandt says. “People will enjoy the time travel back to that era.”
Brandt says the show should resonate with his audiences who loved the similarly formatted “Forever Plaid.”
“I knew this would go over really well,” he says. “It's a great way to kick off the season.”
Bre Pursell is cast as perky blonde Suzy, the group's peacemaker.
“Suzy is the poster child of the '50s,” she says. “Nothing ever really bothers her. She's very bubbly and carefree.”
Pursell says the four characters have personality types that are instantly recognizable to people of any generation.
“Everyone has known these four characters in high school,” she says.
The show's music has a special significance for the young actress.
“It's music that I grew up hearing my grandmother sing to me,” she says. Pursell's hope is that her grandmother can attend a performance and hear Pursell sing those same songs to her.
At the opposite end of the personality spectrum from Suzy is Cindy Lou, played by Diana Rose Becker.
“In the first act, it might be hard to like Cindy Lou,” Becker says. “She's the girl who just knows she is the prettiest girl in school, and she knows without a doubt that she's going to be the prom queen.”
To prepare for the role, Becker studied the characters in the “Mean Girls” movie.
“There's an edge to her that I haven't really played before,” Becker says. “There's a part of Cindy Lou in everybody, but we don't normally let that come out.”
Completing the cast are Brittney Morello as jokester Betty Jean and Maura Newberry as awkward but bossy Missy.
“These girls are great,” Brandt says of his cast. “They're full of energy and enthusiasm, and they really bring these characters to life.”
“It's really such a fun play with a lot of heart in it,” Becker says. “You end up getting more out of the experience than you expected.”
Tickets for “The Marvelous Wonderettes” should be reserved in advance for all performances except the May 28 preview.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.