Leigh Ellen Jones (L) and Sarah Jackson (R) make up half of the cast of Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Leigh Ellen Jones (L) and Sarah Jackson (R) make up half of the cast of Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Not only is “The Marvelous Wonderettes” the last show of the regular summer season at the Wagon Wheel Theatre, it also has the smallest cast.
The show, at the theater through Aug. 23, stars Leigh Ellen Jones, Sarah Jackson, Kira Lace Hawkins and Jennifer Dow.
“I’ve never done a show that has such a small cast,” Jones said during an interview with her and Jackson Monday afternoon. “There’s only four people in the entire show and we’re all on stage the entire time. So it really is a marathon.”
“If you saw ‘Forever Plaid’ last year, we’re the girl version of that. Prettier and, you know ... ” Jackson said.
“Funnier and talented,” Jones joked.
Jones plays Cindy Lou, with Jackson in the role of Betty Jean in “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”
“She is a part of a girl group with her three best friends and they’re all singing at the prom is the premise of the first act. She’s so excited to be nominated for prom queen and her whole life kind of revolves around getting this title,” Jones described her character.
Jackson said, “We are both part of the group, The Marvelous Wonderettes. We are actually not the ones chosen to sing at prom. There’s a group of boys who get kicked out for smoking or something and we’re sort of the last-minute replacement. Betty Jean and Cindy Lou are actually best friends. They’re always trying to one-up each other. Betty Jean’s a little bit more of a tomboy, a little more of a jokester, whereas Cindy Lou is little bit more of a drama queen.”
Cindy is a bit more girly, Jones said.
“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is a little silly, Jackson said. The first act is their prom and the second act is 10 years later at their high school reunion.
“You sort of get to see how each girl has grown from the prom, which is a fun experience,” Jackson said. “(The show is) definitely driven by the music. The people who were alive when the music was written to the people our age and much younger know these songs.”
“It was amazing just the first time we sang through it how many songs I already knew,” Jones said. “(It is) timeless music.”
Some of the songs from the 1950s in the first half of the musical according to Jackson are “Mr. Sandman,” “Lollipop” and “Sincerely.” The second act has a lot of songs from the 1960s like “Heat Wave,” “Respect” and “Rescue Me.”
“People are absolutely going to recognize this music,” Jackson said.
She noted the ’60s music was, for her, more fun to sing, but Jones said she liked the ’50s songs.
“I like the harmonies in the ’50s stuff. It’s just really sweet and charming,” Jones said.
Jackson said there was only one song in the show she had not heard before, “Needle in a Haystack,” in the second act.
“Everything else I pretty much knew,” she said.
“It’s familiar stuff,” Jones agreed.
All four actresses in “Marvelous” participate in every one of the 28 songs except one, Jackson explained.
“There’s one song in the show that is just Kira Lace Hawkins, every other song of the 28 numbers is all four of us,” she said.
“We’re singing solo or backup,” Jones said. “We’re on stage the entire time.”
“See if you can see us sneaking water on the sides,” Jackson joked.
The music was definitely a challenge, she said. A lot of the music from the 1950s was pretty easy in terms of the standard way it’s sung, Jackson said, but there was some stuff that was unexpectedly difficult.
“There’s no hiding it. If you don’t know it, it shows,” Jones said, laughing.
Anyone sitting in section one of the theater might find themselves interacting more with the actresses, she said.
“There’s definitely audience interaction, but we’re the only scripted characters,” Jones added.
Although Jones and Jackson are only here for “Marvelous” and “Rent,” this is their third year at the Wagon Wheel. They also went to school together at Florida State University.
“It’s sort of fun to play this together,” Jackson stated.
For a video of the full interview, visit the free video section on the Times-Union website at www.timesuniononline.com
Tickets for “The Marvelous Wonderettes” range from $15 to $34. Discounts are available for college students and on designated performances for seniors.
For more information, visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.org or call the box office at 574-267-8041.