Popular songs from the 1950s and '60s tell the stories of the four main characters in "The Marvelous Wonderettes," which opens at the Springer Opera House tonight.
The show, created by director and playwright Roger Bean, starts in 1958 with prom and high school graduation looming for friends Betty Jean, Suzy, Cindy Lou and Missy. The talented singers dream of exciting futures filled with fame and fortune.
In Act II, the friends are reunited for their 10-year high school reunion where they learn about each other's journeys since graduation.
Choreographer and associate director for the production is Bets Malone, who originated the role of Suzy in the off-Broadway production of "The Marvelous Wonderettes" and recorded the original cast album.
Never miss a local story.
After this run at the Springer, the show will be on tour January through the end of April.
Audience members get involved by casting a ballot for their favorite character to become prom queen. Consider this your voting guide to learn more about the characters and the women who play them.
Tiffany Wiesend, born and raised in Detroit, plays Missy.
Missy is the organizer and planner who gets the girls together to sing.
"Everything in high school, she takes very seriously. She wants to make a great impression on her teachers and her peers," Wiesend said.
Wiesend doesn't have much in common with Missy but her dad did.
Wiesend's father, Rick Wiesend, was the lead singer for Tim Tam and the Turn-ons.
"He put the group together and taught them the harmonies, so it's funny now that I'm playing that character that puts the group together," Wiesend said.
Her dad died when she was 16, so Wiesend views her role as a special way to stay connected to her father. "It's like an homage to him that I get to do this."
Her mom, who plans to see the show at the Springer, has been instrumental in helping Wiesend understand what life was like in '50s and how her character might have acted in various situations.
"It's been really fun finding the differences... She's the socially awkward girl and I'm the one who's always been able to talk to anyone," Wiesend said.
Growing up in Motown, Wiesend listened to a lot of doo-wop groups. Her dad organized family performances with Wiesend and her two older sisters. "We'd do Mr. Santa instead of Mr. Sandman... We'd pretty much crash and burn," she said.
Though she's the only performer in the family now, she treasures those memories of performing with her family.
Her favorite song is, of course, her dad's "Wait a Minute."
Carly J. Mooney, a New York native who lives in Philadelphia, plays Cindy Lou.
"In high school, she's the quintessential mean girl... she believes that she can do no wrong," Mooney said about Cindy Lou.
However, when she leaves high school, things don't come so easily for Cindy Lou. "She becomes a bit disillusioned," Mooney said.
Mooney has enjoyed playing Cindy Lou because she's so different from Mooney. "Cindy Lou wouldn't give me the time of day in high school," she said.
Mooney and her character do love the same music.
"I feel like I grew up with this music," Mooney said. Growing up, her family's radio was always tuned in to the oldies station. She loves the Four Seasons.
"In the show, I love the tight, tight harmonies," she said.
Now Mooney finds herself listening to a lot of jazz and older music. "I listen to a lot of '60s and '70s type music and old R&B. Nothing too new for me... " she said. "Top 40s isn't in my top 40s."
Ashley Pankow plays class clown and tomboy Betty Jean. Pankow has been in "The Marvelous Wonderettes" before playing Suzy at Maples Repertory Theatre, in Missouri.
As for describing Betty Jean, "She stays in the same place." She's dating the same guy and living in her home town. "She really never left high school," Pankow said.
Besides being tomboys, Pankow and Betty Jean don't have much in common. Pankow likely won't even return to high school for her reunion.
Pankow loves her character's taste in music though. She also grew up on oldies music. "I didn't know about other bands like Hanson and 'N Sync until my friends did." The first concert she attended was with the Beach Boys. She's always enjoyed listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
"I do appreciate the newer folkier acoustic work," she said.
She has several favorite songs from the era and "can always jam out to a good Rockin' Robin."
Kelly Karcher plays Suzy. She's appeared in the show twice before playing Betty Jean at Nebraska's Post Playhouse and Suzy at Mississippi's New Stage Theater.
"She's just really excited about everything and loves everyone." Her journey involves learning about life. "She just doesn't really worry about things."
Karcher has appreciation for her character's cheerful outlook. "She's like an extension of the happiest parts of myself."
Unlike her cast mates, Karcher is familiar with music of the show's era mostly from hearing the songs at weddings and pool parties.
"I did kind of grow up on the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys... I loved it," she said.
"My end all be all is Sara Bareilles," but she also loves Stevie Wonder.
The audience can expect to hear "Lollipop," "Stupid Cupid," "Lipstick on Your Collar," "Mr. Lee," "It's My Party," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Leader of the Pack," "R.E.S.P.E.C.T.," "Rescue Me," "Son of a Preacher Man" during the show.