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'Wonderettes' rewards those who stay for the second act


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POSTED: Saturday, November 28, 2009

There are times when it's great to be wrong about a show, or at least to find that it is not as bad as it could have been. Manoa Valley Theatre's production of “;Winter Wonderettes”; is a perfect example.

The premise sounds like one of those musical revues that string together 10 or 20 oldies on a tissue-thin plot and then present them in ways that mock or belittle the songs and the original artists. Some of that goes on here in Act 1, but when Pomai Lopez hits the stage for a dramatic bump-and-grind rendition of “;Suzy Snowflake”; after intermission, it's clear there is more to this MVT show than mocking the oldies.

Lopez's big number is noteworthy considering that she has been best known until now for her work as a company actor at Honolulu Theatre for Youth. True, she has played “;adult”; roles as well—Jan in “;Grease”; at Army Community Theatre in 2007, Magenta in “;The Rocky Horror Show”; at MVT in 2008—but who knew she could dance like that? Who knew she could do the splits while encumbered by a big prosthetic stomach?

               

     

 

'WINTER WONDERETTES'

        Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Road
       

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 6

       

Cost: $35 general admission, $30 seniors and military, $20 for those under 26

       

Info: 988-6131 or www.manoavalleytheatre.com

       

 

       

“;Suzy Snowflake”; is one of several rewards that await folks who stay for Act II. Alex Lanning is delightful as the cynical singer of “;All Those Christmas Cliches.”; Aubrey Lee Glover adds a third stand-out number to Act II as the lead vocalist on “;What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?”;

Those three numbers are far more substantial than the cheesy takes on several Rock Era Top 40 hits that come early in Act I.

It's fair to mention that Hawaii is meeting the four Wonderettes in mid-story because the show is playwright Roger Bean's sequel to his off-Broadway hit, “;The Marvelous Wonderettes.”; The older show is still running off-Broadway and MVT hasn't been able to perform it yet. If it does get staged, viewers will have a sense of deja vu.

In “;The Marvelous Wonderettes,”; four high school song leaders are called on at the last minute to perform at the senior prom; they then reunite to perform for their 10-year reunion. In “;Winter Wonderettes,”; which takes place a few months after the reunion, they've been called on to perform at the Harper's Hardware Employee Christmas Party.

The characters pick up where they left off. Conflicts that were resolved in “;Marvelous”; flare up anew. Some of the funniest moments are an impromptu commercial for Aqua-Net hair spray, a faux-Hawaiian rendition of “;Mele Kalikimaka,”; and the girls' reactions to some well-intentioned but dreadful Christmas gifts.

Glover (Betty Jean), Lanning (Cindy Lou), Lopez (Suzy) and Becky Maltby (Missy) blend their voices beautifully when Bean's script allows them to do so. They also embrace the physical demands placed on them by director Brett Harwood and choreographer Grace Bell and perform as a smoothly choreographed unit.

Set designer Benjamin MacKrell's hardware store includes an eye-catching moose head, and a toilet-on-wheels that serves as the centerpiece of several numbers. Jason Taglianetti (sound design) works wonders, and Greg Howell (hair and makeup design) goes above and beyond in not only disguising the women with '60s-era hairstyles but also constructing a 'do for Lopez that stays in place even when she's doing handsprings in her show-stopping dance number.