HART stages hilarious 'Wonderettes'

By Mary Ann Enloe | May 25, 2012
Photo by: Christy Bishop "The Marvelous Wonderettes" continues its celebration of '50s and '60s girl groups Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 10.

HART’s comedies and musicals always leave ‘em laughing, but never like “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” During the first act of Thursday’s preview performance benefiting REACH and sponsored by The Creative Thought Center, folks weren’t chuckling — they were guffawing with belly laughs that rocked the building.
The thesis is thin: the senior prom in 1958 and a class reunion a decade later. Period. But the cast of four young women who sing their hearts out for two hours takes the audience back to the McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely” and Connie Francis’ “Lipstick on Your Collar,” and if that wasn’t your era, you’ll walk away wishing it had been.

When Tabitha Judy, English and drama teacher at Pisgah High School, belts out “Wedding Bell Blues” as Missy Miller, you don’t need to search for your 5 Dimension vinyl. Judy nails it. She wowed audiences as Electra in “Gypsy,” but her Missy Miller caps the stack.

Making her debut at HART is Morgan St. Clair as B. J. Reynolds, who is a natural comedienne with a voice like Ethel Merman. Her inability to torch her fire baton before the “time’s up” buzzer in the talent portion of the Prom Queen contest is a jewel of a comic bit.

Kelli Brown Mullinix is a mother of two and a church choir director. As gum-chewing Suzy Simpson, she’s a scene-stealer. Her comedic timing is not off a split second, and her voice is as good as you’ll hear anywhere.
Rounding out the cast of four is HART veteran Tierney Leigh Cody, a junior at Western Carolina University. As Cindy Lou Huffington, she’s beautiful and she knows it. When she sings The Shangri-Las’ 1964 hit, “Leader of the Pack,” she brings the house down.

These four extraordinarily talented young women sing everything from Lesley Gore’s 1966 hit “It’s my Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” to Doris Day’s “Secret Love.” And they do SING it all. There’s no lip-synching here. They’re backed up by pianist Jan Powell, Daniel Iannucci on bass and Justin Watt on drums. Mark Jones, star of HART’s production of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” directs this gem, ably assisted by Lyle Baskin’s set design, Steven Lloyd’s lighting design and set construction by Tom Dewees.

At the Thursday show, summer resident and first-time HART patron Emily Phillips gushed about the piece.

“I just returned from Chicago where I saw ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Million Dollar Quartet,’ and I enjoyed this tonight just as much,” she said.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is like one of those Time-Life TV ads for hits of the ’50s and ’60s, but a lot less expensive. If you don’t remember “Stupid Cupid” or “One, Two, Three, Look at Mr. Lee,” go hear these talented women raise the rafters. If you do remember, take your grandchildren. And sing along.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” continues at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through June 10 at HART, 250 Pigeon St., in Waynesville. For more information, call 456-6322 or visit www.harttheatre.com.