Stage & Dance

Studio Players' latest musical set in the oldies days

Front row: Tagan Citty, who plays Missy, Ellen Jenkins as Suzy, Lindsey Carlstedt as Cindy Lou, and Caitlyn Kogge, as Betty Jean, BACK, as  the Marvelous Wonderettes, the title '50s-'60s era girl group of Studio Players newest production  on Monday July 12, 2010 in Lexington ,Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison  | Staff
Front row: Tagan Citty, who plays Missy, Ellen Jenkins as Suzy, Lindsey Carlstedt as Cindy Lou, and Caitlyn Kogge, as Betty Jean, BACK, as the Marvelous Wonderettes, the title '50s-'60s era girl group of Studio Players newest production on Monday July 12, 2010 in Lexington ,Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

All the women on stage for Studio Players' production of The Marvelous Wonderettes were born well past the 1950s and '60s, when the musical takes place.

But they had no problem connecting with the music.

"I'm a faithful listener of 105.5 (WMKJ-FM), so I love the oldies and old music," says Ellen Jenkins, who plays Suzy in the show built around classics such as Mr. Sandman and Leader of the Pack. "So, when I came in to audition for the show, I said, 'Oh, my gosh! I know those songs.'"

Tagan Citty, who plays Missy, says, "I knew it because I'm the daughter of hippies. So this is the music that was playing in my house all my life."

The second half of the play would be the hippie music.

The Marvelous Wonderettes was an off-Broadway hit by Roger Bean, who has created a number of throwback musicals based on the top 40 of yesteryear.

In the show, a quartet of singers is tapped as the entertainment at their 1958 senior prom after the original entertainment, the Crooning Crabcakes, was bounced because one of the group's members was caught smoking in the boys' room. (Bean recently created a Crabcakes show too: Life Could Be a Dream.)

It's a big night for the girls, one of whom is voted prom queen, though we also see quirks and tensions in the group, particularly between Cindy Lou (Lindsey Carlstedt) and Betty Jean (Caitlyn Kogge).

Act II is set at their 10-year reunion, with the Wonderettes once again entertaining. There are flashbacks to their '50s material but also late '60s staples such as Respect and Son of a Preacher Man.

A lot has happened in a decade, including Suzy marrying her high school sweetheart and showing up for the gig very pregnant.

The reunion is a reunion for the women, who never fulfilled any dreams of making it big together or apart.

"We're locally famous," Citty says.

Jenkins explains, "We all went out and did our own things with our own lives."

The audience won't have to speculate on what happened in the ensuing 10 years.

"They spell it out," says director Tonda Fields. "This isn't Mamet."

Carlstedt says, "There is a song for each of those 10 years that has passed."

Songs like It's My Party (and I'll Cry If I Want To), which signifies a character with a cheating husband, or Leader of the Pack for a character whose rebel beau died.

Not that the show ever gets very heavy.

"The website, when it opened in New York, said it was a 'frothy cotton-candy of a musical,'" says Fields, who also directed last summer's Studio Players smash, Always ... Patsy Cline. "It's a fun two hours to have a great time, and that's what we're hoping for with our audience.

"They're fun characters with their distinct personalities, and its just fun."

For the actors, the most serious part of the performance is the singing.

"As a performer, it's much more challenging and fun to do something with all four-part harmony as opposed to today's music, which is the same three chords over and over again," Citty says. "It's more exciting when you work on something like that, and you bring it together."

Music director Jessica Slaton gives the women high marks for bringing the classics together for the Studio stage.

"These ladies are amazing," Slaton says. "There are surprises in this music that really bring the listener to the edge of their seat, and they are ready for whatever they do. The four-part harmonies are rich and interesting. It's something for the ears to really enjoy."

The Marvelous Wonderettes also takes the young women back to an era they sense might have been more enjoyable.

"I love the old stuff," Jenkins says. "I just find it more fun and easier than the stuff we have today. Everybody seemed happier back then, and there weren't as many challenges. Back then, it seemed more cotton candy and hearts and rainbows."

Carlstedt, who says she feels as if she was born in the wrong era, says, "Back then, music was a way to let loose, and dance around and be happy. Now it's all about, 'I'm on drugs.' Ugh."

A modern convenience did help Kogge sharpen up on the '50s and '60s sound.

"Conveniently, my dad bought a new car and had a month's subscription to XM," she says, referring to the satellite radio service. "So I was listening to '60s on 6 and '50s on 5 a lot."

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