Oh, man. Nothing irritates me more than canned accompaniment in a professional musical. Especially from a top-tier group like Northlight, whose last season featured the Midwest premiere of Grey Gardens. I know these actresses are capable and talented (particularly Tempe Thomas, who was a wonderful Little Edie in the first act of Northlight’s Grey Gardens), but here they are shoe-horned into cloying, cartoony characterizations that quickly wear thin.
A snippet of my EDGE review below.
I have a pretty high tolerance for cheesy musicals with thin plots.
The Marvelous Wonderettes, Northlight Theatre’s kick-off production for its 35th season, stretches that tolerance to the breaking point.
I can understand why it’s a hit: classic tunes from the 50s and 60s a-plenty, nothing shocking or inappropriate, an appealing cast of attractive young actresses, and a sketch of a plot that you could follow even if the dialog were delivered in Russian. It’s completely mindless entertainment.
And the audience seemed to enjoy it enough — in fact the show has just extended an additional week. So my opinion here really doesn’t matter.
That said, I left the show exhausted. I could not bear the overly amplified, canned arrangements (which sound like they are courtesy of a Karaoke machine) that overpower both the singers and the lighthearted tone of the show. And I’m annoyed by jukebox musicals that think they are reinventing the form, as director and writer Roger Bean indicates in his director notes. I was actually quite surprised and disappointed that Northlight would choose to launch their new season with such an uninspired production.
Tonight it’s off to Hairspray at Marriott. I’m sure I’ll enjoy myself a bit more there, considering there won’t be a MIDI file supplying the score.