RCT's 'Wonderettes' a fluffy holiday offering

You can never go wrong with Christmas songs, and there are two dozen of them in "Winter Wonderettes," which opened Tuesday at Rochester Civic Theatre .

Which is good, because the stuff in between the Christmas songs in this show is not exactly scintillating. Sure, it's cute and mostly funny, but the water-thin plot and shallow characterizations are not what we paid our hard-earned money for. We'd much rather hear these four women sing our favorite songs of the season — and a couple of newer ones as well.

The occasion for this performance by the Marvelous Wonderettes (as they were known in the original production, presented two years ago by RCT) is the 1968 Harper Hardware Christmas party. There's no reason to even say it's 1968, because the ups and down of that turbulent year never enter the picture. Instead, the girls are worried about the men in (or out of) their lives, childhood Christmas memories and the company Christmas bonus.

But again, it's the songs that bring everyone together, including the people in the seats, who get roped into an audience participation segment. Hint: It's not a typical holiday concert singalong.

Melissa Adams-Goihl leads the cast, reprising her role as the kinda ditzy Suzy. As always, Adams-Goihl is a confident, reliable performer. She's joined by Lisa Modry, who continues to impress with her versatility, and Jeni Grob, who brings an edge to her character, Cindy Lou, and demonstrates a bluesy singing style. The revelation, though, is Charlotte Smith, a high school senior, who can belt out a tune and has a sassy stage presence.


Each of them takes a turn or two as a soloist, and there are plenty of good ensemble pieces. The harmonies on "Suzy Snowflake" in the second act were particularly fetching. Adams-Goihl delivered a lovely "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" and Grob's opening line of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" was one of the highlights of the show.

"Winter Wonderettes" is the 100th show Greg Miller has directed at RCT. No doubt he's directed stronger, deeper and more vital works. But he's been around long enough to appreciate that some shows are best when we simply let them entertain us.

In that spirit, think of "Winter Wonderettes," with its surfeit of holiday songs, as the fluffy marshmallow on top of your cup of Christmas cocoa.

"Winter Wonderettes" continues through Dec. 22 at Rochester Civic Theatre. For tickets, call 507-282-8481.

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