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Theater Review (LA): Winter Wonderettes by Rodger Bean at the El Portal

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Last year a wonderful musical revue hit town called  Marvelous Wonderettes that played more than a year and is set the go to New York City in the spring where it is sure to have a good run. The show won the 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Award for Best Musical, Intimate Theatre. Well, they took a break from that show to bring us The Winter Wonderettes, which has taken up residence in the El Portal Theatre for the Christmas season. A totally delightful show it is and a great choice for your holiday entertainment.

Billed as ‘The New 60s Holiday Musical,' it features the same four girls singing their hearts out at the Christmas party at the hardware store where they all work. They sing some great songs both known and obscure. We all have heard “O Tannenbaum," ”Jingle Bell Rock," “Winter Wonderland” and maybe even a wonderful costumed rendition of “Suzy Snowflake,” sung by one of LA’s great musical comedy stars, Bets Malone. But did you know “Mele Kalikimaka” or “(We Wanna See) Santa Do The Mambo?” We travel all over the world with these girls but have time to get to know them individually and their personal stories.

A few of the stories are sad. Betty Jean (Julie Dixon Jackson) was jilted by her philandering husband and turned to drink to keep her sorrow at bay. Cindy Lou (Jill Van Velzor) is still hunting for a boyfriend to call her own. Missy (Misty Cotton) is just back from her honeymoon and can’t seem to control her newly found urges. Suzy (Bets Malone) is pregnant (again) but still comes out to support her fellow workers. Each of these performers is a top LA talent with a fantastic voice. Whether singing solo or as a group, they are formidable. They are also funny actresses and writer/director Roger Bean gets the most out of them. His is a heartwarming, touching, hilarious script. I think this show could become a staple like Forever Plaid.

The production values are top notch, with colorful, cheesy sets by Victoria Profitt that capture just the right spirit. The costumes by Ann Closs-Farly and the lighting by Jeremy Pivnick capture the mood of the season. Finally, the musical direction and orchestrations by Brian Baker are first rate. Don’t miss this one. Through the holidays at the El Portal Forum Theatre. 

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