Put your holiday anxieties on hold for the duration of "Winter Wonderettes," the delightfully escapist musical revue, now at the El Portal Forum Theatre.
As light as a glass-blown Christmas ornament, "Wonderettes" is hardly likely to change your life or spark deep thoughts on the state of the nation. However, this particular ornament has been polished to a high sheen by director-creator Roger Bean and a dream cast that could get the most die-hard curmudgeon into the holiday spirit.
This seasonal sequel follows "The Marvelous Wonderettes," the Ovation-winning hit that ran for more than a year at the same venue and features the same characters. There's bespectacled Missy (Misty Cotton), who hooked up with a man in the last show and has just returned from a hot honeymoon. Painfully jilted by her philandering husband, scrappy Betty Jean (Julie Dixon Jackson) is struggling to keep her head high, helped by frequent infusions of alcohol. Cindy Lou (Jill Van Velzer) is still a sultry man-trap on the prowl for her latest conquest, while adorable Suzy (Bets Malone) is pregnant yet again after recently giving birth to twins.
The year is 1968, and the women have been enlisted as entertainment for the Christmas party at the hardware store where all work. Individually, these gals have troubles. Collectively, they are the Wonderettes, a homespun singing group of a deceptively amateurish bent. Don't let their bumbling and bickering fool you. When they sing, they belt it out of the ballpark.
Everything about this production is first-rate -- particularly Victoria Profitt's hilariously cheesy set design. Janet Miller's choreography is as lively as it is inventive, while musical director Brian Baker blends the performers' voices into some of the lushest harmonies since the Andrews Sisters.
If you are looking for a festive entertainment this holiday season, turn yourself over to the wonderful Wonderettes. They will prove more bracing than a bucket of spiked eggnog.
Where: El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Ends: Dec. 31
Price: $45 to $49.50
Contact: (888) 505-7469, www.marvelouswonderettes .com
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes