News Column

Holiday wonder: 'Winter Wonderettes' opens this week at The Grand Theatre

December 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 02--It's the kind of show that makes audience members sit back and think, 'My gosh, I know someone exactly like that.' The four female characters in the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild's production of "Winter Wonderettes" are meant to portray real women that many people will relate to someone they know in their everyday life.

The musical, which opens Thursday, Dec. 5, at The Grand Theatre, isn't supposed to be about a group of imaginary characters. Rather, the four women in the cast are supposed to represent women you'd meet in every day life and that's what makes this holiday production all the more fun.

"It's a show that will make you realize you know someone exactly like each one of the characters," said Robin Michelsen, who plays Betty Jean. "You learn the ins and outs of the four very different characters through the course of the show, which has lots of music and vignettes, and each person watching will find one character they can relate to on a personal level. It's nostalgic and pure funniness all wrapped up together."

The show -- which has only four actresses and two accompanists -- is about four friends who put on a holiday show at the local hardware store. The musical is set in 1968 and features popular Christmas songs.

What makes the show work is that the four characters are all very different from one another, making each one relatable in some way.

Betty Jean, played by Michelsen, has worked at the hardware store for 10 years and is someone who likes to be in charge. Cindy Lou, played by Sandy Patten, has a sarcastic wit but because of a traumatic youth that caused her to move around a lot, never established any Christmas traditions. Missy, played by Robin Burk, is the bossy one of the group. And Suzy, played by Sue Falch, is the ditz -- which is funny considering Falch actually has a law degree and her master's in history.

"The beauty of the show is that these four friends have been friends forever and yet are so different than each other," said director Elaine Jones. "There are moments where they bicker and there are some really beautiful moments, just as in real friendships."

What also makes the show fun and unique is that the audience is considered part of the play. The four women are putting on this holiday show for the hardware store workers, who are played by those in attendance.

Patten said the actresses enjoy to play with the audience a little bit and even ad-lib some of their lines to best suit a given crowd.

Because of that connection with the people in attendance, the actresses said there is no other place the show -- which runs through Dec. 15 -- would work other than The Grand Theatre. And they are excited to put this whimsical holiday variety show on that stage.

"This is a show that works perfectly with the intimacy of The Grand Theatre," Patten said. "This is a show you just wouldn't work at someplace like The State Theatre because the audience needs to become part of the show to make it work.

"It really is a fun show for everyone."

Syrstad can be reached at 715-833-9206, 800-236-7077 or jocelyn.syrstad@ecpc.com.

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(c)2013 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

Visit the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) at www.leadertelegram.com

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