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By R. Eli Townsend
Special to The PREVIEW
“Jukebox musicals” have risen in popularity over the past 20 years.
The formula is a tried-and-true one: a fictional group of vocalists in the golden era of Rock-n-roll recreate some of the era’s most popular songs in new arrangements.
Playwright and composer, Roger Bean has made a successful career with shows like these. His creation of “Winter Wonderettes” fits squarely in that field. The Christmas oriented sequel to Bean’s enormously popular “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is as good or better than the original — a fact not lost on Thingamajig’s latest offering this season at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
The setting is the everyday town of Springfield, in December 1968. Betty Jean (Boni McIntyre) organizes her boss’ annual holiday party and invites her lifelong pals Cindy Lou, Suzy and Missy. The singing quartet uses the occasion as a reunion of the Marvelous Wonderettes, the group they launched 10 years earlier. When the party’s rented Santa fails to show, the girls leap into action and perform an evening of impromptu holiday songs that are sure to entertain the whole family.
Bean’s script puts the focus on the contrasting personalities of the various Wonderettes. McIntyre’s Betty Jean is the practical, self-appointed leader. Cindy Lou (Jamie Finkenthal) is a vivacious, buxom sexpot. Suzy (Margaret Ozaki), now a pregnant newlywed, is childlike, trusting and goofy. Bespectacled Missy (Karen Jeffreys) is like everyone’s favorite grade-school teacher — formal, prim and proper.
Though their high school bickering is far behind them, Bean introduces just enough conflict to keep things interesting. The show opens with the girls recreating many of the favorite holiday and some non-holiday tunes with the girls taking turns as lead singer. All the girls provide laugh-out-loud entertainment, each with their own unique background and quirks.
Whereas the original show featured infighting and bickering among the girls, here Bean’s characters are obviously dedicated to maintaining harmony to honor the holiday spirit. Accordingly, the mood of this “Wonderettes” is mostly playful throughout the evening.
A bubbly, upbeat medley of holiday “bells” songs and an enjoyably loose “Santa Baby” cap the performance. The final shower of snow crystals from above is a winning special effect that epitomizes all the show has to offer.
Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “Winter Wonderettes” by Roger Bean, directed by Pat Payne, at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts Dec. 13-29. Weekday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. Tickets $10-$22 with advance purchase. For ticketing and show information, visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW.