Off-Broadway Hit ‘Wonderettes’ Comes to Actors Point Theatre

JJ Rodgers in The Marvelous WonderettesHENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – While Jersey Boys was bringing the tight-harmony guy-group music of The Four Seasons to Broadway, another show was packing the Off-Broadway Westside Theatre with tight-harmony girl-group tunes of the 1950s and 1960s. That show was The Marvelous Wonderettes, and it runs April 5-14 at Actors Point Theatre Company.

The production is a funny, glittery song-and-dance revue by Roger Bean that features a trunk full of pop classics like “Lollipop,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lipstick On Your Collar,” “Mr. Lee,” “It’s My Party,” “Heat Wave”, “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Leader of the Pack, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” “Rescue Me, “Son of a Preacher Man” and twenty other hits. This lively romp into the nostalgia of the 50’s and 60’s has been sweeping the nation for more than a decade.

In 1998, fresh off a production of Bean’s first hit musical, Don’t Touch That Dial! at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Bean was asked to write a new musical for their intimate black box space, the Stackner Cabaret. Bean suggested a musical about high school song leaders from the ’50s and ’60s, best friends, singing at prom for their best friends and boyfriends. He would use pop songs from the ’50s and ’60s to tell story of the characters. In this way, The Marvelous Wonderettes was born in 1999.

Through the years it has grown from its much simpler one-act format to its current, fully realized, two-act version. In 2001 the show headed to Milwaukee Rep for an extended run and played at several other theaters around the country.

In 2006, Bean met producing partner David Elzer, who along with Peter Schneider helped to create a fantastic Los Angeles production of the show, which ran at the El Portal theater for two years and received Ovation nominations and awards. The Marvelous Wonderettes opened at the Westside Theater in New York City on September 14, 2008 where it ran until January 3, 2010.

The musical begins in 1958 where we meet four Springfield High School teens performing a show for their classmates on prom night.  While Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzy are good friends, a competitive theme emerges when all four girls are announced as candidates for Prom Queen. At the end of Act One, the audience votes and elects the winner.

Act Two fast-forwards ten years to 1968 where the Wonderettes gather for a class reunion – older, wiser and a little bruised by the upheavals of the Rock Revolution. But it’s all in fun as the girls pursue dreams that are as big as their crinoline skirts.

The Marvelous Wonderettes is directed by Nashville actor and director Greg Wilson. Wilson is the Founding Artistic Director of Actors Point Theatre Company. Wilson has been seen in productions for The Tennessee Shakespeare Festival, Writers Stage, Terrace Theatre of Milwaukee and at Actors Point Theatre Company. Mr. Wilson was honored to be named the Artist in Residence by celebrated veteran actors and Professors David Alford and David Wilkerson for the theater program of Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., this past fall.

The Actors Point Theatre Company production of The Marvelous Wonderettes stars four talented singer/dancer/actors – JJ Rodgers, Catherine Birdsong, Marie Wise Hawkins and Chelsea Reynolds.

Rodgers spent several years in Los Angeles before moving to Nashville just a few short years ago. She has been seen in productions with Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara, Laguna Playhouse, Santa Susanna Shakespeare Company, The Tennessee Shakespeare Festival, Tennessee Shakespeare Company, as Cindy Lou in The Marvelous Wonderettes for the Kimbal Theatre in historic Willimasburg, VA and is a founding member of Actors Point Theatre Company in Hendersonville. Rodgers has recently co-starred  in ABC TV’s Nashville as the short-lived mother in-law to Juliet Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Other screen Credits include 2 ½ Men, 3rd Rock From the Sun, The Hank Azaria Show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Michael Richard’s Show and many others.

Birdsong is a native of Nashville and a graduate of the musical theatre program of Belmont University. She moved to Lose Angeles in 2010 where she has been acting, singing and modeling ever since. Birdsong’s credits include TV appearances on Mad Men, Vegas, How I Met Your Mother, and CSI – NY. On stage, she has also appeared in recent LA area productions of The Marlvelous Wonderettes, and as Maria in The Sound of Music. Her commercial credits include ads for Capital One, Old Navy, American Idol, Listerine, and Sony Cybershot.

Hawkins was honored to be invited to be a part of the ground-breaking Alabama China Symposium in Monroeville, Ala., to help revitalize Alabama. On her recent trip, she received the key to the City and debuted “The Road to Alabama”.  Hawkins, a yodeler, was Female Vocalist of the Year – North American CMA.  She has performed at Walt Disney Hall’s REDCAT, the Louise Mandrell Theater in Pigeon Forge, the Mel Tillis Theater in Branson, and the Gene Autry Museum, to name a few. Hawkins has also won Colgate Country Showdown Competitions at K-HAY and K-RZY and has received OMNI Awards in such diverse categories as Country, Country Duo, Broadway, and Gospel, as well as the Bertha Savage Award for Operatic Performance. Her theatrical credits include Eponine in Les Misérables, Ariel in The Tempest,  L’écureuil in Ravel’s Opera, L’enfant et les sortileges and most recently as Patsy Cline in the Canyon Theatre Guild’s production of Always… Patsy Cline, and The Marvelous Wonderettes also for the Canyon Theatre Guild in Los Angeles.  She is competing as one of only six finalists in nationwide The Macaroni Grill “Opera Sing Off” in Dallas Texas on March 19.

Reynolds resides in Los Angeles and has impressive stage credits including Fool for Love (by Sam Shepard) Hollywood Fringe Festival, Katie Lapp in The Confession: A New Musical – Blue Gate Theatre, Agave in The Bacchae Mouse in Busytown both at The Hangar Theatre, Cathy in The Last Five Years at both the Pensacola Little Theatre and Praxis Project, Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Flat Rock Playhouse. Chelsea’s impressive musical theatre credits in clude Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Logainne in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Kathy Seldan in Singing in the Rain, Alainna in A My Name is Alice.  She graduated with a degree in Theatre  from Samford University.

Marvelous Wonderettes LogoPerformances are April 5, 6, 12, and 13 at 7:30 p.m. (dinner buffet is served at 6:30 p.m. and is catered by Hendersonville’s Blackeyed Pea Restaurant and advance reservations are required) . There are also two matinee performances at 2 p.m. on April 6 and 14 (non-dinner performances).

Dinner and Show tickets (Adult – $34, Seniors -$31, Children $24) and Show Only seats (Adult – $18, Seniors $15, Children $12) are on sale at www.actorspointtheatre.com  or by calling (615) 431-9620.

*Photo by Kim Meehan Kiely and artwork courtesy Actors Point Theatre Company.

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