Review: ‘Winter Wonderettes’

Joseph Barbera

While prepping for a scheduled move to Gotham in early '08, cast, crew and characters of the long-running revue "The Marvelous Wonderettes" take time out to offer a Yuletide-themed sequel, "Winter Wonderettes."

While prepping for a scheduled move to Gotham in early ’08, cast, crew and characters of the long-running revue “The Marvelous Wonderettes” take time out to offer a Yuletide-themed sequel, “Winter Wonderettes.” While there weren’t exactly a lot of burning questions left open at the end of the original, time spent with these talented songbirds is as comfortable as coming home for the holidays to cocoa and a Johnny Mathis Christmas album.

The quartet performs at their 1958 high school prom and 1968 reunion in the “Marvelous” original, so creator/helmer Roger Bean rolls ahead a few months as ambitious Betty Jean (Julie Dixon Jackson) taps them as entertainment for the holiday party at Harper’s Hardware (we’re the employees).

As we await Mr. Harper’s arrival as Santa with our bonus checks, the Wonderettes regale us with 25 pop holiday standards while catching us up on their lives. Ditsy cutie pie Suzy (Bets Malone) is pregnant again by hubby Richie at the light board. Bespectacled nerd Missy (Misty Cotton) is recently wed (to an audience member house left), while sultry, unattached Cindy Lou (Jill Van Velzer) vies with Betty Jean for the attentions of Bob from Plumbing, great fun for some guy sitting house right.

The Wonderettes’ act remains an altogether pleasant mixture of character conflict, ineptitude and terrific McGuire Sisters-style chantoosing, accompaniment crisply prerecorded. Their deadpan-serious take on Christmas songs from other lands is a hoot, but they know how to sell solo numbers straight as well. In ensemble singing and Janet Miller’s impressive dance routines, the Wonderettes blend like smooth eggnog.

Malone’s is the most distinctive comic creation, a distant cousin of “Golden Girls’ ” Rose Nyland with a sassier streak. Still, all four get moments to shine.

Victoria Profitt seems to have recycled every paper snowflake and holly sprig in Los Angeles for a set evoking a TV Christmas special from the 1960s. Lightly satirical sense of period is carried through in the bouffant hairdos and Ann-Closs Farley’s gowns (“blue, in honor of our Jewish friends”).

Winter Wonderettes

El Portal Forum Theater; 94 seats; $49.50 top

Production

A David Elzer, Peter Schneider and Marvelous Dreams presentation of a revue in two acts; created, directed and musical staging by Roger Bean. Musical director/orchestrations, Brian Baker. Choreography, Janet Miller

Creative

Sets, Victoria Profitt; costumes, Ann Closs-Farley; lighting, Jeremy Pivnick; sound, Cricket S. Myers; vocal arrangements, Bean and Baker; stage manager, Vernon Willet. Opened, reviewed Nov. 24, 2007; runs through Dec. 31. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.

Cast

Missy - Misty Cotton Betty Jean - Julie Dixon Jackson Suzy - Bets Malone Cindy Lou - Jill Van Velzer
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