The Ocean State Theatre Company opens their new Warwick performance space with carols and comedy in the tune-filled Christmastime cabaret The Winter Wonderettes.
The Marvelous Wonderettes – Betty Jean (played by Kim Morgan Dean), Cindy Lou (Erin McCracken), Suzy (Melissa Robinette), and Missy (Lulu Lloyd) – adopt the more season-appropriate moniker “Winter Wonderettes” to star in Harper’s Hardware Holiday Happening, 1968. The Wonderettes’ evening of entertainment is meant to build up to the moment when Mr. Harper arrives, dressed as Santa Claus, to deliver his employees’ Christmas bonus checks.
Santa’s big moment is hindered by a series of delays, and an unexpected discovery in Mr. Claus’ sack puts a disheartening “slip” into the festivities, but the girls soldier on while crooning “Little Saint Nick,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “A Marshmallow World,” and “O Tannenbaum.”
For The Winter Wonderettes to succeed, the show’s cast needs abundant energy and lots of personality, and OSTC’s leading ladies have these fine qualities in spades. Dean, McCracken, Robinette and Lloyd are powerful singers, and the material is arranged to allow for both flawless harmonizing and spotlight solo performances. Dean shines as a vocalist and comedienne in “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” while McCracken tones down Cindy Lou’s habitual cynicism in a heartfelt longing for “All Those Christmas Clichés.” Robinette ramps up Suzy’s already effervescent persona by adding tap shoes and a dance solo in “Suzy Snowflake,” and Lloyd, as the achingly earnest Missy, directs a harried look at Christmas Around the World by leading the quartet in “Mele Kalikimaka.”
During the first act, the ladies are at their best in moments of pure song with little silliness. Some of the early comedy bits are true groaners, saccharine and repetitious, but the production fully hits its stride in the second act when the laughter and song merge much more naturally. Audience participation makes the jokes and sight gags flow smoothly, and the ladies’ flashy silver go-go boots and hairstyles (beehives to flips to roller sets), along with topical references and jokes, set the time and place.
Performances of The Winter Wonderettes run through December 30, 2012 at the Ocean State Theatre Company. Tickets range from $39-54 and can be purchased online at www.OceanStateTheatre.org, by phone (401) 921-6800, or at the OSTC box office, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, RI. Call (401) 245-1426 for information on group discounts. Parents, please note: The Winter Wonderettes briefly includes some adult innuendo.
Pictured: (from left) Lulu Lloyd (above), Melissa Robinette, Kim Morgan Dean and Erin McCracken. Photo by Mark Turek.