| Stage |

Winter Wonderettes at Stages: Not Much Plot, But Plenty Nostalgia

The setup:

The all-girl singing group The Wonderettes, featured in the popular, long-running The Marvelous Wonderettes at Stages in 2010, returns for a 2011 holiday event in another jukebox musical.

The execution:

It might have been called Waiting for Santa, as that title would succinctly capture what passes for a virtually nonexistent plot, but then it would be Scrooge-ish to expect more plot in a musical that relies so heavily, and successfully, on nostalgia.

This is the hallmark of Roger Bean, who wrote and created this event, as he did with The Marvelous Wonderettes, The Andrews Brothers and others. I counted 25 songs, performed with relentless vivacity by four talented performers, and it's a bit like waiting at the crossing for a freight train to pass. But, oh my, did the audience ever like this freight-train!

There's not a trace of a Grinch in the songs, and "Ring Those Christmas Bells" morphed, though not smoothly, into an audience participation number.

Holland Vavra Peters plays Suzy, and her voice might well be called wondrous -- she can be a belter when called for, but her voice can cascade from a husky purr to an operatic flight. I would love to see her in a role where the smile was gone and her inner torch-song persona emerged with power and authority.

Chelsea Ryan McCurdy plays Missy, and she has mastered the seductive walk and shoulder twitch. It works wonders -- there's that word again! Rachael Drees Logue plays Cindy Lou and wins the award for enthusiasm -- the competition was fierce. Christina Michelle Stroup plays Betty Jean, and her deliberately bad blond wig marks her as the intellectually challenged member of the quartette, a role she handles with adroit poise.

The verdict:

An all-girl jukebox musical hangs Christmas songs like ornaments on the sturdy tree of nostalgia, as the popular Wonderettes visit us for the holidays.

Winter Wonderettes runs through December 24 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information and tickets, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com.

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