AISLE SAY San Francisco


Written & created by Roger Bean
Directed by Amanda Folena
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
Fox Theatre
2215 Broadway St., Redwood City / (650) 579-5565, Ext. 1

Reviewed by Judy Richter

It's 1958, the middle of the Eisenhower years, and the Springfield High gym has been decorated for the senior prom. Entertainment is provided by the Marvelous Wonderettes, four senior girls who are good friends and who sing popular songs of the day. That's the premise of "The Marvelous Wonderettes,"a four-woman show presented by Broadway by the Bay.

While it's mostly a revue of oldies like "Mr. Sandman," "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and many others, it's also a brief glimpse of each girl's personality. Perhaps most the common denominator among them is that they're very interested in boys.

The excellent BBB ensemble cast features Kristin Schmitz as Betty Jean, the joker of the group; and Ashley Rae Little as Cindy Lou, supposedly Betty Jean's best friend, except when she upstages Betty Jean and when Betty Jean accuses her of trying to steal her boyfriend. Amie Shapiro is Missy, the glasses-wearing leader of the group; and Adrienne Walters is Suzy, a blond airhead.

The second act finds them back in the gym for their 10-year high school reunion, and again they're entertaining with songs like "Wedding Bell Blues," "It's My Party" and "Son of a Preacher Man." Suzy, who's very pregnant, and Betty Jean are upset about their philandering husbands, whom they started dating in high school. Missy has been dating one of their former teachers for five years and is more than ready for him to pop the question, while Cindy Lou laments the loss of her motorcycle-wearing boyfriend, one of their classmates.

BBB artistic director Amanda Folena, who serves as both director and choreographer, keeps the action flowing smoothly, while musical director Dolores Duran-Cefalu directs the off-stage orchestra and guides the women's intricate four-part harmonies. The set, designed by Michael Carnahan, and props come from Musical Theatre West, as do the period-perfect wigs and costumes, the latter designed by Bobby Pearce. Lighting is by Michael Ramsaur. The sound, which sometimes distorts the shriller notes, is by Bill Carrico.

BBB has temporarily moved to the Fox Theatre in downtown Redwood City while its longtime venue, the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, is renovated. The theater is directly across from the plaza at the former San Mateo County Courthouse. One block of the street between the theater and plaza was blocked off for a free outdoor concert for the two hours before the BBB curtain went up. A multiplex movie theater is nearby, as are numerous restaurants, so the entire scene was bustling both before and after the show. There's convenient, moderately priced parking beneath the movie theaters.

The Fox itself is a former movie theater that stood empty for several years until undergoing some renovations. It still is a long way from its former glory, but it serves BBB's purpose well as a temporary home.

It also seems like an appropriate setting for "The Marvelous Wonderettes," a nostalgic bit of fluff that's nevertheless quite entertaining thanks to the songs and the fine performances.

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