Roger Bean has made a career of writing jukebox musicals — a show that features popular or country music from a certain era and weaves an ever so thin story around some songs.
What Dominick Varney has done over the past decade is direct shows for Winterport Open Stage that feature the best female singing voices in the area.
To kick off the community theater company’s 25th season, Varney turned to Bean’s catalog and chose a show that features the best songs of the 1960s and 1970s made popular by so-called girl groups.
“The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” is a poor excuse for musical theater, but it is a perfect opportunity to hear some of the best music sung by Greater Bangor’s most talented women singers.
Heather Astbury Libby, Brianne Beck, Elena Burns and Nicolette Aliano are wonderful. Individually and together they show why songs like “Band of Gold,” “Everlasting Love,” “For Once in My Life,” “I Will Survive,” “When Will I Be Loved” and many more are classics and deserve to be sung and heard.
The thin storyline is that the Wonderettes, who began singing together as students, have come together again in 1969 in Act One for a teacher’s retirement party. The second act is set at the same high school for the women’s 20th reunion in 1978.
None of the patter and prattle in-between songs matters. It is the strength, passion and joy with which the cast sings that does. Varney and his cast give songs that stir fond memories for audience members and give them a new lease on life. Teens and young adults just may discover how moving four women’s voices blending together can be.
Tom Libby on drums and Jason Cross on piano sound like a bigger band. The men support but never overpower the women’s voices.
Winterport Open Stage’s first production in 1983 of “Prelude to a Kiss” set a high standard that the company mostly has lived up to over the years. It premiered Maine productions of “Baby Dance” and “Inspecting Carol” in 1996. Six years later, the company presented a hysterical and cutting-edge performance of “Fuddy Meers” in the round.
The group always has been mindful that it performs at Wagner Middle School and makes sure its production are appropriate for all ages. Winterport Open Stage also likes to make the community laugh so hard it cries, so its production history is comedy-heavy.
Like many community theater companies, it has had its ups and downs over the years, but it continues to offer theatergoers from Old Town to Belfast on both sides of the Penobscot River engaging and, if not always perfect, sincere productions.
“The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On,” despite its flaws as a musical, is a tribute to Winterport Open Stage’s devotion to theater and the community.
The singers and songs deserve some “good lovin’” as does the company for persevering.
Winterport Open Stage will present “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” at 7:30 p.m Thursday through Saturday and at 3 pm. Sunday at the Wagner Middle School, Mountainview Drive, Winterport. For more information, visit winterportopenstage.net.