YORKTOWN, N.Y. - I don’t want to give anything away, but when you walk into a theater lobby that dons the streamers and balloons of a retro high school prom, you know you’re going to be in for a fun night. Sincerely.
Saturday night at Yorktown Stage took me back to 1958 on the evening of Springfield High School’s Super Senior Prom. The event entertainment? Four Marvelous Wonderettes in cat-eyed and taffeta-ed glory. Betty Jean (Gina Gentile, Bronx), Suzy (Gina Noto, Yorktown), Missy (Triona O’Callaghan, Yonkers), and Cindy Lou (Roma Scarano, West Harrison), kick off their act with the familiar barber-shop opening of “Mr. Sandman,” and the music doesn’t stop for 90 minutes.
Well, naturally shenanigans ensue amidst the girls’ 38 covers of ‘50s and ‘60s hits. Who’s trying to take whose boyfriend (“Boyfriend-stealer,” I believe is the official term used), who’s usurped whose solo, who has a crush on a faculty member. Eventually it all gets resolved, or at least explained, at the girls’ 10-year reunion in Act II (where later Billboard hits—“It’s in His Kiss,” “Rescue Me”—take center). The show’s plot won’t leave you contemplating the complexities of human existence, but who needs that on a hot suburban summer night; “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is an infectious, frilly ride, that can’t help but sweep you away.
And the show’s team makes it look so easy, which is the signature of a successful production. The show, on the whole, is less complex than most of Yorktown’s previous undertakings—there’s a unit set with minimal cosmetic adjustments, a small cast, one costume-change. “But it’s not all so simple,” explains artistic director (and the show’s director) August Abatecola.
To say the four Wonderettes had their work cut out for them is an understatement. Firstly, there’s only, well, four of them, so pressure’s on as they remain on-stage for the entirety of the show. Multiple solos are taxing enough for performers used to maybe one, but add to that tight, seemingly flawless backup harmonies (taught and expertly stylized by music director Stephen Ferri) for every song that’s not their own, and you’ve got a vocal marathon.
Carrie Silvernail’s spot-on choreography—perfectly reminiscent of The Chordettes, The Supremes and other mid-century girl-groups—again seems simple enough. There are no 10-minute dance breaks, athletic turns or leaps, complex formations. But the Wonderttes’ style of movement is so nuanced, so detailed and different for every song—it takes supreme multitaskers to master it all, and especially to keep it uniform.
Clearly, Gentile, Noto, O’Callaghan and Scarano have to be high-caliber performers to pull off even a decent production of Wonderettes. And these four young women certainly deliver. Each develops a unique, distinct character to form a multifaceted, and thus engaging, group dynamic. And the vocals. Lord, the vocals. Just when you think one may be the vocal standout, the others come along and belt just as high, have just as much stylistic color.
I love to sort of lurk in a theatrical space post-show, and overhear audience tidbits—the uncensored, uncut confessions of the spectator. On Saturday night, I garnered a lot of fuel for this critic’s fire—“You know, I really enjoyed that,” “Oh the voices on those girls” and “That was just so much fun” seem to sum up the general feeling.” The Marvelous Wonderettes” may not be a show you’ve ever heard about, but Yorktown’s production is definitely one you’re going to want to see and certainly hear. Now as they say in Springfield, thank you, and goodnight. Sincerely.
The remaining performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, and 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Yorktown Community and Cultural Center, 1974 Commerce St., Yorktown Heights.