High school seniors are graduating and it’s a time of nonstop excitement and eager anticipation. And, for many, the festivities began with their senior prom.

Maine State Music Theatre is paying tribute to these once-in-a-lifetime memories with Roger Bean’s nostalgic musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which kicked off the theater’s summer season Wednesday.

It was a picture-perfect evening Friday as theatergoers strolled, arm-in-arm, around the Bowdoin College campus, waiting for the doors to open. Inside the Pickard Theater, executive director Steven Peterson was making the rounds of the lobby as Principal Peterson, providing a sneak peak of the shenanigans that were to come when patrons entered the theater.

They were time-warped back to Springfield High’s 1958 senior prom, complete with lighted balconies, red construction-paper hearts and ushers adorned with carnation corsages. The entertainment, of course, was The Marvelous Wonderettes — four dreamsicles in a rainbow of pastel colors and crinoline skirts.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” has a song-driven storyline, featuring a jukebox of pop hits from the ’50s and ’60s, sung by the fictitious girl group, The Marvelous Wonderettes. Director Chan Harris has cast talented songstresses Brittney Morello (Betty Jean), Danielle Erin Rhodes (Suzy), Lara Seibert (Cindy Lou) and Morgan Smith (Missy) to step into the girls’ shiny shoes.

“Mr. Sandman” opens the two-part evening. It’s prom night and Betty Jean, Suzy, Cindy Lou and Missy have been asked to perform at the last minute as replacements for The Crooning Crabcakes, whose lead singer got in trouble for smoking outside the girl’s locker room. Their trials, tribulations and dreams unfold though a perpetual set of memorable saccharine songs such as “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lucky Lips,” “Teacher’s Pet” and “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight.”

As the senior class, the audience gets to participate in the play’s antics, including voting for prom queen. One lucky audience member gets to “play” the role of Mr. Lee. And, adding extra fun, local school principals will be providing cameo appearances in upcoming shows.

Act two fast-forwards the audience to 1968 and the 10-year class reunion. Once again, The Wonderettes have been asked to provide the evening’s entertainment. It’s another continuous set of top-20 hits, this time featuring power-ballads from the ’60s. Songs include “Heatwave,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “It’s My Party,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Respect.”

No matter what your age, you’re bound to know most of the 30-plus iconic classics featured in “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Spirited cast members capture the innocence of the ’50s tunes, then get to show off their versatile pipes with the gutsier songs of the ’60s.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is a fun tribute to the bygone decades and a fitting nod to the graduating high school seniors of today. It’s a toe-tapping, head-bopping blast to the past.

April Boyle is a free-lance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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