Stage sequels are seldom as successful as the originals. Whether it's because the novelty wears off, the plot is less developed, or the acting is uninspired, sequels usually just don't work.
For their Christmas production this year, the Village Playhouse reunites the talented cast from The Marvelous Wonderettes for the sequel, The Winter Wonderettes. The story picks up in 1968 at Harper's Hardware Store Holiday Party following the girls' 10th high school reunion. Overall, the sequel is as energetic and entertaining as the original, but Roger Bean's plot is thinner and the characters are less developed. The Winter Wonderettes is more of a musical revue than a story built around the music, similar to The Marvelous Wonderettes. Nevertheless, the show is enjoyable for all ages.
Keely Enright's set design is festive and colorful, decorated in hues of blue with various Christmas items, poinsettias, snowmen, Santa Clauses, and nutcrackers. A large, blue package opens up to a vignette of a burgundy Christmas tree with silver garland. The four actresses are costumed in late-1960s party dresses in shades of blue.
In the six months that have passed since their high school reunion, some things have changed, and some haven't. Suzy (Caroline Boegel) is pregnant — again. Johnny left Betty Jean (Emily Wilhoit) — again. Missy (Jenna Brinson) is a happy newlywed, and Cindy Lou (Lara Allred) is still single.
The strong, multitalented cast performs mostly lesser-known Christmas tunes, a refreshing change for those going to more than one holiday show this month. Highlights in the musical score include a series of international Christmas songs, such as the ensemble's Hawaiian Christmas song "Mele Kalikimaka" and Wilhoit's comedic butchering of "O Tannenbaum." Wilhoit proves her vocal talents in the wistful "Just Another Lonely Day." Brinson revives her signature style in the soulful and sexy "This Christmas." Boegel makes the most of Suzy's ditzy optimism with a tap dance routine in "Suzy Snowflake." Allred proves once again that she has the whole package as a performer and stands out in her nostalgic and bittersweet performance of "All Those Christmas Clichés."
The show's finale of "Winter Wonderland" blends four-part harmony under the guidance of musical director Justin Wham, who accompanies on the keyboard with Brent Hubbard on upright bass and Bret Nash on drums. Audience participation adds to the evening's fun, particularly for one lucky gentleman in "Santa Baby."
Despite the lack of plot movement and character development, Winter Wonderettes is a delightful, light-hearted show with strong performances and good-natured humor that appeals to a wide audience.