DIVA TALK: Chats with The Marvelous Wonderettes Plus LuPone Gypsy on CD

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26 Sep 2008

<I>The Marvelous Wonderettes</I>
The Marvelous Wonderettes
Photo by Carol Rosegg

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES
After more than a decade, Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre (Upstairs) has a new tenant, the four-person The Marvelous Wonderettes — "the cotton-candy colored non-stop pop musical" — which, indeed, features a marvelous quartet of singing actresses playing a quarrelsome high school singing group, whose members are also vying for the title of Prom Queen: Farah Alvin as the insecure, bespectacled Missy Miller, Beth Malone as the sassy, frank Betty Jean Reynolds, Bets Malone as the comical, gum-chewing Suzy Simpson and Victoria Matlock as the beautiful and popular Cindy Lou Huffington. In Roger Bean's two-act production (a first act featuring '50s classics and a second comprising '60s hits), each of the four women gets the chance to shine in both group and solo spots; especially impressive is Alvin's lush, powerful belt, which is most thrilling during her rendition of Laura Nyro's "Wedding Bell Blues." I recently posed the same set of questions to the four multi-talented performers; their answers follow.

Farah Alvin

FARAH ALVIN
Plays Missy Miller

How did this role come about for you?
Farah Alvin: I auditioned for Missy in New York with an appointment set up by my agent.



How would you describe your character?
Alvin: Missy is a very "Type A" personality. She's wound a little tight, which is typical of over-achievers (Missy made all of the girls' prom dresses and did the decorations for the prom). I described her once as that kid who raises her hand at the end of class to remind the teacher that [he or she] forgot to assign homework. But, basically I think Missy is socially awkward, nerdy, smart but deeply passionate, and that awkwardness is a sort of mask for a lot of emotion.

What is your favorite song to perform in the show?
Alvin: There are so many, honestly, that I love to perform. "Secret Love" is a treat to sing because it's such a beautiful song. But also, it's the first moment that Missy gets to let all of her heart out — like taking the cap off of a bottle of soda that's been shaken up. Also, I really love the choreography to "Lipstick On Your Collar." It's so deliciously square, so 1950's high school. And the plot really shifts during that song so the audience response is always fun to react to.

Were you involved in any singing/performing groups in high school?
Alvin: I was a drama geek in high school. We didn't have much of a choir to speak of, so all of the good singers gravitated toward the drama department. I was in glee club and jazz choir in junior high.

Who do you really think should be named Prom Queen?
Alvin: I think Suzy should win prom queen. Her heart is in the right place about it, and it would mean the most to her. Plus, she's Missy's best friend.

What are your favorite past theatre roles?
Alvin: I got to play Mother in Ragtime this year at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. It doesn't get much better than that, frankly.

Do you have any other projects in the works?
Alvin: I did a concert of my original music at Ars Nova in their "Uncharted" series for composers which was exciting. Otherwise, just hoping Wonderettes can keep going strong!

Beth Malone

BETH MALONE
Plays Betty Jean Reynolds

How did this role come about for you?
Beth Malone: I did the West Coast premiere of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown in L.A., and Bets sent Roger Bean to see it because she thought I was funny. Roger then came to my house and tested me on how low I could sing. I must have passed because he offered me Betty Jean, which I accepted with glee! That was seven years ago! Meanwhile, when the L.A. production happened, I was involved in Sister Act, so I missed that phase, but I am so pleased to be in wig and lashes once again for this leg of the Wonderettes journey.

How would you describe your character?
Malone: Betty Jean has often been described as a tomboy, which is accurate, but I mostly think of her as very eager to please, to fit in and be like the other girls because she knows she's just not. So Betty Jean is the first one to laugh at herself. If anyone is going to make a joke about her, it's going to be her first, which can sometimes lead to inappropriate behavior.

What is your favorite song to perform in the show?
Malone: "That's when The Tears Start" — [it is a] beautiful song [and a] great arrangement.

Were you involved in any singing/performing groups in high school?
Malone: The DC Singers Show Choir! Go Huskies!

Who do you really think should be named Prom Queen?
Malone: Suzy should win if it's a contest of who's the nicest. For sure Suzy.

What are your favorite past theatre roles?
Malone: I love the role of Helen in The Break Up Notebook It's an up-and-coming New York project I was lucky enough to be part of in the NAMT festival last year. My good friend Patricia Cotter wrote the funniest and most full-of-heart character, and I absolutely loved playing her.

Do you have any other projects in the works?
Malone: Actually, The Break Up Notebook (or whatever the title ends up being) is in the works for a New York run of some kind. Kevin McCollum has the rights, and he is The Man!

Bets Malone

BETS MALONE
Plays Suzy Simpson

How did this role come about for you?
Bets Malone: I was so lucky to have been in Wonderettes from the very beginning [in Milwaukee]. Mr. Bean wrote the role for me, and I can't believe I'm still able to bring her to life night after night.

How would you describe your character?
Malone: Suzy is the poster child of the ideal '50s teenager. A cross between Gidget and Doris Day. Bubble gum, boyfriend, happy-go-lucky girl next door who wants to do nothing more than sing with her friends and dance with her boyfriend.

What is your favorite song to perform in the show?
Malone: I love singing "Maybe" behind Victoria Matlock. It's my favorite moment in the show.

Were you involved in any singing/performing groups in high school?
Malone: I was in show choir all four years of high school...award-winning I might add. Big awards!

Who do you really think should be named Prom Queen?
Malone: Of course I should be Prom Queen. Who wouldn't vote for the girl next door?!

What are your favorite past theatre roles?
Malone: My favorites to date are Annie Oakley [in Annie Get Your Gun], Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Natalie in All Shook Up and Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress.

Do you have any other projects in the works?
Malone: I've been trying to shift towards voice over. I did a pilot for the Cartoon Network last year, and I was Talulah the Monkey in "Barbie as the Island Princess." If you're lucky, you can own a plush toy monkey with my voice in it!

Continued...

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