Granbury Theatre Company
Director – Brian Lawson
Music Director—Shannah Rae
Choreography – Brooke Goodson
Scenic Designer—Phil Groeschel
Lighting Designer—Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer – Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer – Emily Warwick
Missy Miller– Emily Warwick
Cindy Lou Huffington—Caitlan Leblo
Suzy Simpson—Amber Lanning
Betty Jean Reynolds—Kelly Nickell
Reviewed Performance 4/3/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
As someone who has only visited the Historic 1886 Granbury Opera House once, I jumped at the opportunity to visit to Granbury, Texas on Sunday afternoon and see The Marvelous Wonderettes. I had very little knowledge of the story of The Marvelous Wonderettes…so, before going, I had to do some research. I was quickly able to find out that this was a “juke-box” musical: where the story was conceptualized around the stories told in the music (think Mamma Mia!, and Rock of Ages). Once I found out it was the jukebox of the late 50’s and 60’s I was immediately sold! This was such a great time for music…additionally, audiences were able to use their imaginations and visualize Judy and Johnny from Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party,” and The Shangri-Las story of lost love with Jimmy aka “The Leader of the Pack.”
Not only did I have the pleasure of taking a short road trip from Waxahachie to Granbury, but also, I was able to once again see a production in a theater that originally featured Vaudeville Acts, Dramatic Productions, and Musical Programs. According to the Texas Historical Commission plaque, “after years of rapid deterioration,” the building originally named Kerr’s Opera House, was re-opened in 1975 by the Granbury Opera Association. It was impressive to see the interior the theater, kept with the integrity and design that was very representative of the original state. Now that the history of the theater building has been uncovered…let’s get on with the show-and to my review of Granbury Theatre Company’s The Marvelous Wonderettes.
Director Brian Lawson brought together a small ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these lively and enthusiastic characters. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The actresses were so fully charged with energy- it really was an upbeat and fun afternoon at the theater. From the moment the show began, members of the audience were bopping along with the music-and some even singing along (that would be me…) Not only were the familiar songs from the 1950’s and 60’s a fun trip down memory lane, but the staging and overall conceptualization were pleasant and visually pleasing. Lawson certainly delivers in the role of director in this production.
Set Designer Phil Groeschel successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage of the historic 1886 Granbury Opera house into the quintessential high school gym in 1958 and 1968. In a story with one location, I was very impressed with the bright use of colors, and the simplicity of the location on stage. I was impressed with Groeschel’s attention to detail in each location, from the boys and girls locker room doors on each side of the stage to the gym water fountains on the proscenium arch (which I believe to be an actual part of the architectural design- transformed into something of great value for the sake of production detail). It’s the little details like that really pull me into the world of the story. I was absolutely awe-struck by the scenic design when the story moved from 1958 to 1968. In the second half of the production, the grand drape was revealed and the prom at the high school gym was transformed into the latest offbeat 1960’s stereotypical stage with huge hippie flowers, and bright psychedelic colors and patterns. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail was incorporated from the scenic designer.
Lighting was designed by Kalani Morrissette. Morrissette did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. It was lively, and aesthetically pleasing. As an avid theatre-goer, Director and Designer, it continually amazes me how something as simple as a color can delineate and represent the entire mood and emotion of a scene. I felt that it was a very powerful use of visual imagery. Through the performance, Morrisette’s cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the audience the impression of the mood of the scene. It is apparent that Morrissette really devoted a lot of time, effort and talent in the lighting of this production.
Sound was designed by Kyle Hoffman. Sometimes, I feel that Sound Design in a musical is an often overlooked area of creativity. Audiences focus so much on the vocal and instrumental music that is being performed in the musical (whether live or pre-recorded) that the sound designer doesn’t really have the opportunity to get creative with musical selections. This was certainly not the case in this production. It was a real treat to get to hear vintage 1950’s radio and television broadcasts transform into the epitome of the 1960’s-specifically the theme song to “Petticoat Junction” and the opening narration and theme to the original “Star Trek” series. What an intricate detail to demonstrate the shift of time from the 1950’s to the 1960’s- just as the story takes a ten year time shift.
Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the late 50’s and 60’s, but had a fine attention to detail. For each performance of The Marvelous Wonderettes (at the 1958 Senior Prom and the 1968 Ten-Year Reunion) they each had a unique and eye-catching costume. It was a nice touch to see some sparkle to some of the costumes. I also enjoyed seeing each character in a similar color/shade for each act-not only did the colors complement each character, but, audiences were able to correlate colors to characters in both 1958 and 1968. As an occasional costume designer, this was one of those gems that I find to be the most remarkable. It genuinely shows that the costume designer has taken the time and care to tie each character together with the younger and the older representation of themselves. When audiences are able to interpret this, and to actually see it come across on stage, then, the designer has certainly delivered in their area of creativity. I loved the 1950’s style prom dresses, and the extreme flip to the mod 1960’s go-go dresses with appropriately matching go-go boots. The costumes were fantastic, and for this 1960’s fashion enthusiast, were quite a treat to see.
Amber Lanning was incredibly believable in the role of Suzy Simpson. Through facial expressions and body language, Lanning convincingly portrayed the young ingénue (with her steady high school boyfriend Richie, who ran the lights in absentia during the prom and the reunion) Ms. Lanning’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was a very true depiction of young girls of the time period. She never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Ms. Lanning had an incredible stage presence and a lovely, honest sense of humor and interaction with her fellow actresses.
Another standout was Emily Warwick in the role of Missy Miller. Ms. Warwick certainly has a multitude of talents-Costume Designer and Actress!) Through facial expressions, dialogue delivery, and an incredible vocal range, Ms. Warwick was by far (in this reviewer’s opinion) the most likeable on stage. I really enjoyed her character’s journey from young high school student with a crush on Mr. Lee in 1958 (played wonderfully by a surprised gentlemen audience member sitting next to me, and was he certainly surprised and grinning from ear to ear when he escorted on stage by the ladies and integrated to became a part of the show!) to ‘Mrs. Lee’ marrying her high school crush at the ten year reunion in 1968.
This production of The Marvelous Wonderettes is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the music begins, and the songs to the soundtrack of lives appear one after another, you will be fascinated and compelled to sing-along. Not only is it an excellently designed and honest depiction of the 50’s and 60’s, but also, it is an excellent way to introduce the classic songs of the 1950’s and 60’s to new audience- and let’s face it, in today’s day and age these songs seem to disappear every day from mainstream radio, and the younger generation is being deprived of these classic songs, by truly talented artists. The Marvelous Wonderettes is appropriate for all ages- and will be a treat for anyone wishing to be entertained at the theatre. I encourage you to take a day-trip to Granbury, and to the historic Grandbury Opera House to see this show. It will truly be “marvelous!”
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House, 133 E. Pearl Street, Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through May 1st.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm. Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm
Prime Seating Tickets (Rows A, B, C, D)
Seniors (65 and older) or Military: $27
Children (12 & under): $25
Standard Seating Tickets (Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J & Balcony)
Seniors (65 & older) or Military: $22
Children (12 & under): $20
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.