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Professional ‘Marvelous Wonderettes” at Lake Ontario Playhouse


SACKETS HARBOR — The return of professional theater to Lake Ontario Playhouse is a thing of “Wonderettes.”

“The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which was an off-Broadway hit, will be staged at the playhouse starting tonight and continuing on weekends through Nov. 18 with professional actresses and production staff from New York City making the trip north.

The actresses rehearsed music and choreography in New York City for several weeks and last weekend arrived in Sackets Harbor, where Lake Ontario Playhouse owner Michael R. Kinnie is directing the show. His wife, Rebecca, is producer.

However, the show’s four-member cast, music director and choreographer, who all live in New York City, were adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy. They lost at least five days of rehearsal in New York City since they were unable to get to a rehearsal space.

Mr. Kinnie said choreographer Marissa Perry used the Internet for some rehearsals.

Ms. Perry videotaped, step by step, the choreography of the show, so that the “Wonderettes” could download it and work on it solo. Musical director Brandon Sturiale also created individual downloads for each of the four girls.

Mr. Kinnie said the playhouse is going back to its roots with the professional theater show. The playhouse began as a summer stock theater in 1987. Over the years, its stock in trade has become stand-up comedy.

“That paid the bills better than theater did,” Mr. Kinnie said. “But now, stand-up comedy doesn’t seem to attract the audiences it used to attract. Theater seems to be attracting more of an audience.”

The playhouse has done several theatrical shows, but with local actors, such as Mr. Kinnie’s “The Littlest Elf,” which will return this Christmas season.

Mr. Kinnie said the playhouse still will stage stand-up comedy.

“We want to kind of mix it up,” he said. “I’m hoping my stand-up comedy market will be introduced to some really good theater so I’ll be able to keep those people coming as well.”

“The Marvelous Wonderettes,” written by Roger Bean, takes audiences to the 1958 Springfield High School prom where the Wonderettes are performing. They discuss their lives and loves and perform such classic songs as “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lipstick on Your Collar,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” and “It’s My Party.”

The second act is set at the girls’ 10th high school reunion, with music from the ’60s. Show Business Weekly called the show “Smooth as a malted milk shake.”

New York City actress Crystal Mosser, a Fort Drum Army wife, is co-producer and assistant director. She has appeared in several regional productions, ranging from “Grease” to “Hairspray,” across the country. She also has played Cindy Lou in “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

The four “Wonderettes” are DeWitt native Ashley Marie Hess as Cindy Lou; Caitlin Thurnauer as Suzy, Molly Garbe as Betty Jean and Melanie Burg as Missy.

Mr. Sturiale, the music director, is the pianist. He was assistant musical director for the original off-Broadway production, which opened in 2008 at Westside Theatre.

The decision to stage “The Marvelous Wonderettes” grew out of a conversation following a stand-up comedy performance at the playhouse, Mr. Kinnie said. He was talking to Ms. Mosser, who had just moved to the area with her husband. He told them that he would like to stage more musical theater but it was hard to find music directors locally.

“She said I didn’t have to get them here, that she could get them from New York,” Mr. Kinnie said. “She knew a lot of music directors/piano players. She sent me Brandon’s name and a few others. Brandon seemed like the best fit.”

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“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is co-sponsored by the Jacob Brewster House, Sackets Harbor, and the Sackets Harbor Bed and Breakfast.

Lake Ontario Playhouse has applied for nonprofit status, which would open up more venues for grants and other funding.

“My philosophy has always been you can bring in high quality professional entertainment for a reasonable price if you do it right,” Mr. Kinnie said.

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