By Wendy Rosenfield
for the Inquirer
The Wonderettes made their first appearance with 11th Hour Theatre Company back in June. Then, the quartet was The Marvelous Wonderettes, a nostalgia trip to the 1950s and ‘60s whose conceit was a last-minute girl-group substitution for a cancelled boys’ glee club performance. Now, they’re Winter Wonderettes, still in beehives, go-go boots and cat’s eye frames, trading on nostalgia--this time, for the ghosts of Christmases past--while filling in for a missing Santa at Harper’s Hardware Holiday Party.
Along the way, the ladies, Kat Borrelli’s feisty Betty Jean, Laura Catlaw’s lusty Cindy Lou, Rachel Camp’s prissy Missy, and Janet Rowley’s ditzy Suzy power through two acts filled with roughly 25 Christmas songs covering the gamut from “Jingle Bells” to “(We Wanna See) Santa Do the Mambo.” Suffice it to say that despite the big man’s absence, this is no Godot; the ladies get one adjective each, because as written by Roger Bean, a specialist in the field of boomer-pop musical revues, that’s their script and they stick to it.
Much like its predecessor, there’s not much story here--some catfighting, a little audience participation. But what it lacks in heft, its cast, director Megan Nicole O’Brien, choreographer Borrelli, and musical director Tabitha Allen make up for with copious enthusiasm. (As an aside, I’d love someday to see Allen go piano-a-piano with Philly’s other musical director a la mode, Alex Bechtel.)
Though Catlaw solo has trouble projecting even in this not-so-big space, and Rowley’s forceful singing voice reaches an ear-bleeding pitch when she’s speaking as Suzy, as an ensemble the Wonderettes make a joyful noise. Harmonizing like a latter-day (but not that much latter) McGuire Sisters, and going at their comic flourishes with gusto, they might just be the hardest-working women in Philly’s holiday season show business. But it bears noting that to love this show, one must really love Christmas songs, or the Wonderettes franchise, or both. If you do, you will. If not, as Beckett’s Vladimir once mused, “We wait. We are bored.”