With a couple of dozen popular songs from the 1950s and 1960s arranged by Michael Borth linking its meager script together, Roger Bean's The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns is a diverting nostalgic pastiche now playing in Millbrook.
Its compliment of four of Millbrook's experienced actors -- Kaitlin LeMaster, Grace Moore, Lauren Norris, Taylor Trucks -- directed by A. John Collier, test their strong singing voices for close to two hours of almost non-stop vocals, a challenge to even the most experienced of singers, that this ensemble does with credit as they portray the quartet of "song-leaders" from fictitious Springfield High School as they prepare for graduation day.
Mr. Bean has created a small cottage industry out of the "Wonderettes", this being one of two sequels to the original, relying on the "more-is-better" philosophy, but struggles to make the magic happen beyond the first act. -- The title ...Caps and Gowns is misleading, since only Act I has to do with the standard end of high school rituals, and Act II is set some years later at the wedding of one of them to a former teacher -- a preposterous scenario that shows the foursome stuck in the same stereotypical adolescent behavior exhibited in Act I.
Sad, really, since the ensemble shows a lot of talent that has no where to go in the second act. This is demonstrated in unfortunately undisciplined behavior and dropped energy that are needed to sustain them beyond the first act.
They are at their collective best when singing [which fortunately is most of the stage time], complemented by color-coordinated costumes and Daniel Harms' period-style choreography, and with only an occasional hint of irony in sending up the 1950s and 1960s attitudes expressed in the lyrics.
The 50s naivete comes across in "At the Hop", "Rock Around the Clock", "Dedicated to the One I Love", and "Graduation Day", and the more liberal attitudes of the 60s are apparent in "Don't Mess With Bill", "Good Lovin'". and "The Look of Love" -- and each member of the quarter has moments to showcase her individual talent.
For additional nostalgia , get to the theatre early for an ice cream social; it should get audiences in the mood for this gentle trip to simpler times.