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The Porthouse Theatre production of ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ is simply marve

It’s the night of the 1958 Senior Prom at Springfield High School and the Marvelous Wonderettes have been tapped to provide the entertainment for the evening with the theme being “Marvelous Dreams.” They are a last minute replacement for the boys glee club who were scrubbed when their lead singer Billy Ray Patton was caught smoking on school grounds (“Tobacco can kill and make you ill”).

This is the premise for Roger Bean’s “The Marvelous Wonderettes” with musical arrangements by Brian William Baker, Orchestration by Michael Borth and vocal arrangements by Roger Bean and Brian William Baker.

It is a magical night with decorations provided by the French class and the Wonderettes dressed in flowing full skirted taffeta with tangerine for Missy (Alexis Wilson), blue for Suzy (Emma Rose Johnson), pink for Cindy Lou (Riley McIntyre) and green for Betty Jean (Hannah Hall).

The quartet kicks off the show with “Mr. Sandman” as Suzy gives a nod to the spotlight operator, Ritchie Stevens whom she is dating. This is followed by a Sugar and Spice Medley of “Lollipop” and “Sugartime” which segues into “The Chipmunk Cheer” that had earned the group a proud third place trophy at the State Song Leaders Competition. Betty Jean leaves to put their trophy in the school display case and seizing the opportunity, Cindy Lou steals Betty Jean’s solo number “Allegheny Moon.” Betty Jean returns and tries to hilariously wrest back control of the song.

Next on the bill is the Dream Medley with “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Dream Lover” as the announcement of the Prom Queen nominees (all four Wonderettes plus (Judy Carter) a no-show from their homeroom) is made. Next the four are given their time to shine with solo numbers where Suzy dedicates her song to her prom date, Ritchie. Betty Jean sings “Lipstick On Your Collar” and Cindy Lou sings “Lucky Lips.” It is then discovered that Betty Jean and Cindy Lou are dating the same boy...Johnny. An argument ensues that is broken up by Suzy. Missy finishes off with her solo of “Secret Love” and the girls bring their choral director, Mr. Lee on stage for a medley of “Mr. Lee”, “Born Too Late” and “Teacher’s Pet.”

Mr. Lee is returned to his seat as it is now time for the talent portion of the Prom Queen Competition as the four must perform their acts simultaneously on stage for 30 seconds. The “talents” consist of Cindy Lou posing, Missy singing her best sustained note, Suzy flailing with a hula hoop and Betty Jean unable to get her “flaming” baton to light.

The votes are collected and tallied as the girls sing a Goodnight and Goodbye Medley of “Sincerely” and “Goodnight Sweetheart” after which Suzy is announced as the winner. She then performs her spotlight song of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” as the lights fade for intermission.

Act II is ten years later at the reunion as we are caught up with where the girls lives have taken them. Suzy is married to Ritchie and very pregnant but their relationship is undergoing problems. Missy is “dating” Mr. Lee with hopes of him popping the question. Betty Jean has a corporate position at the hardware store. Her husband, Johnny has quit his job in raw lumber at the store and is carrying on with Judy Carter. Cindy Lou had tried a stint in Hollywood but has returned to Springfield and is dating bad boy Billy Ray Patton.

Most jukebox musicals are long on music but short on story line. Not so with this production. There is an interesting interwoven tale that keeps the audience attentive. The first half of the show is a bit juvenile and borderline professional much as one would witness at a real 1950s prom. It has that “high school kids doing their best” feel to it. This actually adds to the appeal and warmth of the production.

All of the actors are in fine voice throughout with well thought out choreography by Amy Fritsche (who also directed the show). Abbie Hagen’s costumes are spot on for both the 50s and 60s. Bethy Winter’s sound design was crisp and clear especially for the solo numbers. The lighting design set the proper mood for the entire show. Most important, the orchestra conducted by Jonathan Swoboda (also on keyboard 1) consists of Paige Morris (Keyboard 2, Craig Wohlschlager (Reeds), Andy Dyet (Guitar) and George Judy (Drums/Percussion) is fantastic channeling in their 50s groove.

The 50s, while not perfect, were a simpler time that many reminisce about. Musically it was a period of seemingly simple tunes that were actually performed with astute complexity. This show captures that feel. Grab a picnic dinner, arrive early and enjoy the beautiful grounds prior to the show. Sincerly!

The Porthouse Theatre production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes” will be on stage at their Blossom Music Center location through July 15, 2023. For more information go to or call 330-672-3884.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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