Nordstrom's may not be ready to get into the Christmas spirit before November 27, but Stages Repertory Theatre is reprising last year's wildly popular musical celebration of the season. Roger Bean's WINTER WONDERETTES is more a yuletide cabaret than a musical with plot. The barely-there story is about the Marvelous Wonderettes performing at Harper's Hardware Holiday Happening. Yet, the best gift of all is that Stages has reassembled their original Marvelous Wonderettes, giving these talented ladies a third opportunity to wow Houston audiences with every ounce of their charismatic star power.
Melissa Rain Anderson's direction and choreography is charming, vibrant, and filled with 60s pizzazz. From beginning to end the show keeps audiences smiling and laughing. Performing in the round, Melissa Rain Anderson has also ensured that the ladies play to all four sides and make every member of the audience feel like they are part of the show long before the audience is encouraged to participate at the end of the first act and during the second act. She has coached her cast to be so enigmatic that when they select audience members, the audience is bubbling with anticipation and hoping that they'll be picked.
Part event organizer and team leader, Chelsea Ryan McCurdy's Missy does her best to keep the chaos at bay while progressing through the Marvelous Wonderettes' set list for the holiday party. Chelsea Ryan McCurdy's Missy, complete with her blue cat eye frame glasses, is reminiscent of Scooby Doo's Velma, but with lowered inhabitations-nerdy and awkwardly sexualized. Her portrayal easily engages the audience and brings about some of the loudest laughs, especially during her hilarious, showstopper performance of "This Christmas."
Betty Jean, played by Christina Michelle Stroup, competes with Missy to be the leader of the show and group as she struts around the stage with a bigger smile and a louder, brassier voice. Christina Michelle Stroup utilizes her powerful, soulful styling to remind the audience of the soulful singers of the 60s that modern acts like Duffy and Adele are inspired by. Her smile and characterization are sincerely captivating and invites the audience to be blown away by her magnificent and awe-inspiring singing. Her "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" are highlights of the evening.
Rachel Logue perfectly plays the sensual, hypersexual vixen Cindy Lou. A would be sexual innuendo never escapes her and she dishes out her fair share of them as well. Likewise, she slinks around the stage, making eyes at all the men in the audience, which brings a healthy dose of guffaws when she sings "think of all the boys I haven't kissed" in "Santa Baby." In addition to being sultry, Rachel Logue shows off her ability to move audiences with her heartrending rendition of "All Those Christmas Clichés."
As Suzy, Holland Vavra Peters is nothing short of a true delight. Suzy is ditzy and heartwarming. She still believes in Santa Claus and gets swept away in all the cheer and merriment of the Christmas and Holiday season, letting the audience know that she wanted the costumes the girls are wearing to be blue so that they are inclusive of all the people that celebrate Chanukah. Each of her zany antics is memorable and steals the show, filling the auditorium with boundless laughter when she dons a serape for "¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?," and a snowflake costume complete with roller-skates for "Suzy Snowflake."
Jodi Bobrovsky has done an excellent job with her Scenic and Properties Designs. The decorated boxes on casters look great and are wonderfully versatile. The columns are skillfully decorated to look like a hardware store, featuring fully functional drawers that would store screws, nuts, bolts, and other small necessities. Jodi Bobrovsky's attention to detail is always impeccable, and WINTER WONDERETTES is no exception.
Tiffani Fuller's costumes for the show are cute sequined velour, mod-inspired Twiggy dresses. They look fantastic on the actresses and are perfectly evocative of 1968. The girls, except pregnant Suzy, also wear sequined Go Go Boots.
Kevin Holden's Lighting Design is warm and effervescent. It utilizes vibrant greens and blushing reds to create that iconic holiday color palette. Soft blues are utilized for musical numbers referencing snow and the more emotional moments. In the louder, more boisterous and lively songs, Kevin Holden has bars of colored lights that alternate, creating a concert lighting effect that is just as fun as the song being sung.