As jukebox musicals go, "The Marvelous Wonderettes" enjoys a distinct advantage. The appealing lollipop revue making its Long Island premiere in Smithtown is not restricted to one pop artist or era. It roams the jukebox universe for songs that lyrically suit four frenemies who make up Springfield High's 1958 prom band and return for Act II's 10th-year reunion.
But while crinoline dresses are eons removed from go-go miniskirts, the playlist bypasses the late-'60s psychedelic British Invasion (unless you count Dusty Springfield).
Snappily directed by Danny Gorman - too young to recall either era - "Wonderettes" cajoles with light-soap back stories: Even before she learns that Cindy Lou is stealing her boyfriend, Betty Jean (spunky Cara Buschi) is jealous of Cindy (blissfully above-it-all Anya Absten) for assuming she'll be elected prom queen. (Although ballots are distributed, we suspect the vote's rigged.)
In an upset, Suzy (ever-verging-on-tears Emily Dowdell) triumphs - for a while. Meantime, bookish Missy (we suspect she masters geometry, though Missy Dowse won't let on) has a crush on her teacher. He's "Mr. Lee" of the ancient Reather Dixon hit in this audience-participation role.
Many more Top 40 goldies, conducted by Cara Brown, embroider this sugary treat. Countering a potential overdose: "Wedding Bell Blues" (Laura Nyro) and "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" (Otis Redding by way of Aretha Franklin).
You go, girls
WHAT "The Marvelous Wonderettes," written and created by Roger Bean
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St.
INFO $16-$32, smithtownpac.org, 631-724-3700
Where the 'Boyz' are
Gateway Playhouse, for the first time competing with itself, presents the Long Island debut of "Altar Boyz" while its other premiere, "Hairspray," plays in Patchogue. Both shows have a moral center, although "Altar Boyz" offers an agenda: The hot Christian boy band - Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan, plus Abraham - wants to save every soul in the audience. A salvation scoreboard keeps track.
Luke (naughty Ryan Nearhoff) reminds us that sinners have a special place in redemption. Mark (sensitive Jeff Leatherwood) threatens to come out - we won't spoil the joke. Juan (Spiro Galiatsatos) projects ethnic diversity - PC alert! - along with Wade Elkins as the earnest Jew for Jesus. Matthew (Joey Kouhry) is the hot one.
With the fading boy-band phenomenon (*N Sync, Backstreet Boys), perhaps "Altar Boyz" has lost its groove. Kinetic charm - credit director-choreographer Carlos Encinias and conductor Justin Fischer - gets us past scriptural dogma. Still, the rigidly religious might object to joke lyrics: "You make me want to wait, girl." In the show I saw, I thought the audience-participation number took advantage of the plus-size volunteer. The only overtly political joke was an innocuous "We don't use that word" when Mark spoke of "evolving."
It's best not to overanalyze "Altar Boyz," any more than it was to over- analyze former *N Sync "boy" Justin Timberlake for his "wardrobe malfunction" stunt.
WHAT "Altar Boyz," music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, book by Kevin Del Aguila
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. today, Friday and Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at 215 S. Country Rd., Bellport
INFO $50-$56, gatewayplayhouse.com, 631-286-1133