by Gerry Roe
Amana – Old Creamery Theatre brings its 2016 season to a close with an energetic production of Winter Wonderettes, an interesting introduction to the holiday season featuring four women with strong abilities in both singing and dancing. Some of the songs are original, but some of the old favorites from the 50’s and 60’s are included as well.
The quartet of women consists of Katie Colletta, Sarah Hoch, and Lindsey Cline, who have all been seen in earlier productions this season, and Ashley Pankow in her Creamery debut. They are all employees of Harper’s Hardware gathered to provide entertainment for Harper’s annual Holiday Happening for 1968. The audience represents all the rest of the store’s employees, and occasionally members of the audience are brought to the stage to participate in the entertainment. There is even one number, “Jingle Bell Rock,” when the entire audience is given an opportunity to participate.
Interspersed with original songs are some old favorites including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Mele Kalikimaka,” “Sleigh Ride,” “O Tannenbaum,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” and a seductive “Santa Baby” which all four women sing to a member of the audience brought to the stage to stand in for Santa.
Each of the four women possesses a vocal talent obvious in their solo numbers, and they are also capable of producing three and four-part harmony blending their voices so well they appear to have been singing together for years. Individually, they are a delight; together they are a formidable quartet. Highlights of individual performances, for me, were Sarah Hoch’s touching rendition of “All Those Christmas Cliches” and Ashley Pankow’s “Christmas Will Be Just another Lonely Day.” Katie Colletta’s singing and acting create a pitch-perfect performance throughout, and Lindsey Cline, playing a very pregnant Suzy displays her voice and her dancing as “Suzy Snowflake” concluding with an energetic tap dance.
Sean McCall’s direction and choreography keep the show moving briskly along and it is hard to imagine anything surpassing his skill at allowing each actor to shine and to blend with the others for group numbers. Music Director Emily Seibert succeeds in blending distinctive individual voices into a disciplined and harmonious chorus. Costume designer Marquetta Senters has created a delightfully coordinated look for the Wonderettes, incorporating individual touches as needed – for example Suzy’s obvious pregnancy using one of the best and most convincing pregnancy pads I’ve seen. Marianna Coffey’s set design is attractive and functional but it evokes a quickly contrived décor assembled by hardware employees. But better. Light design by Jim Vogt moves inconspicuously between highlighting individual performers and expanding to cover the entire stage.
Winter Wonderettes provides a great introduction to the secular joys of the season. See it if you can and be prepared to become part of the action. The show runs through December 18 at Old Creamery Theatre.