After "Shakin’ the Blues Away", the good ship SS Wrinkles is about to shove off for it’s round the world cruise. Everybody gathers to acknowledge that "Happy Days Are Here Again" - the skies above are clear again, and indeed they are, at least for most of the passengers and crew. Captain Horatio, clearly a skipper who blows his own horn, welcomes his passengers under the watchful if somewhat bleary eye of his mother. Mom is known to chase anything in pants, especially following a wee nip of liquid fortitude in which she indulges now and then. Little does our hapless skipper know that his ship is infested with the most inept jewel thieves on five continents, a pair of cops in hot pursuit of them and each other, and an abundance of weird characters with a variety of nefarious schemes. Top it off with a pair of nuns seeking Papal permission to open a gambling casino, and the ship romps from stem to stern.
Our cruise opens to the music of Acapulco as we sail the Mexican Riviera en route to our first major port - Hawaii. To the tune of "Blue Hawaii", who should happen to board but luscious and loaded Margaret Farrington, a veteran of world cruises, who is now looking for Mr. Right. Will she find him? The answer is a resounding YES! The debonair Mr. Wright, who charms the charming by singing, dancing, and blowing the horn even better than Captain Horatio, is indeed aboard. With the pervasive aroma of frangipani we know that romance is in the air. But romance is not in the cards for Dolly Madison, former proprietor of San Francisco's poshest Convenience/Therapy Center. Our unhappy ex-madam sings "Blues In The Night" as she reminisces on the many times that Joy Barker the vice-cop shut down her operation and drove her out to sea as a shipboard hostess. As Ms. Barker discovers that Rocky Fortune, her long-lost sweetheart, is aboard in pursuit of the jewel thieves, another shipboard romance seems inevitable.
We now find ourselves a little south of Java where a little piece of lava grew up to be the Island of Bali. It is here that hanky-panky on the poop deck makes it first but not last appearance - Ms. Farrington laments that she really needs "Someone To Watch Over Me", and the man she is about to meet knows that "Somebody Loves Me" but he has yet to find out who. At the end of this distant duet, the star-crossed lovers meet, and the answer to their needs will soon be forthcoming.
Leaving Bali, we wander through the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal to beautiful downtown Egypt, where a pair of belly dancers swing and sway like palm trees in a hurricane.
On to Naples - home of the wonderful "Tarantella" - gateway to Roma with Papal audiences and culmination of our nun's quest for a nihil obstat on their gambling casino, and to Pizza (or so think our hapless jewel thieves). Recognizing that her associate, Sister Torrence, is a total airhead, Mother Marcus encourages herself to "Climb Every Mountain", while the two toga-ed thieves try to impersonate ancient Romans by badly lip-synching "O Sole Mio". Alas and alack - all the way from Seattle to Rome via Mexico, Hawaii, Bali, and Egypt to visit the Pope, and the Pope ain't home! What's to do for these desperate nuns? With a flash of entrepreneurial brilliance, they freeze holy water and market it as Popesicles. Now, why didn't we think of that?
Underway again, and magnificently clad distaff passengers brag about "April In Paris". In the meantime, Sister Torrence is nursing a hangover that has a half-life longer than the skull that contains it. Her first exposure to the wonders of vino fino is one she is unlikely to forget (if she lives that long), and Doctor Forte, who himself has been known to consume the fruit of the grape in copious quantities can only sympathize and recommend mutual elixirs. Off to London, land of the Full Monty, and in an English Pub we are eyewitnesses to that dance that made England infamous. To the tune of "The Stripper", the besotted male passengers disgrace the SS Wrinkles with a dance that bares all! These unruly folks have brought down the house, but we have to assume that their unseemly conduct has caused the ship to be forever barred from Merrie Olde England. We have now sailed to Ireland, where the wearin’ o’ the green produces a most harmonic remembrance of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", and thence to bonny Scotland where grows the sweet blue bell. In that lovely land we are regaled with "Scotland The Brave" and "Amazing Grace" with a sound that only the skirl of bagpipes can produce.
Anyone who has ever been on a cruise, least of all a round-the-world one, knows that some time or another they must survive the agonies of Amateur Night. Well, the cruise of the SS Wrinkles is no different, except that the talent is a bit better than one would find on, say, the good ship Lollipop. The Emcee is none other than Dr. Forte who starts the proceedings with a rousing rendition of "That Old Black Magic". He introduces Richard, the deputy Physical Fitness guy (who loathes physical activity almost as much as he detests sweat), who sings "If I Ruled The World". If he did we can be reasonably sure that he would outlaw his boss, Jackie, the chief physical fitness person, whose boundless energy makes everyone want to toss her overboard. The Captain’s Mom wants her wayward son to answer the question, will you still need me, will you still feed me, "When I’m Sixty-four". Dr. Forte has heard weird noises aboard which he has attributed to bad Italian wine, worse British Beer, and an overdose of fine Scottish Whisky. It turns out to be Mother Marcus, Sister Torrence, and the lady passengers working on a beautiful hymn called "Hail Holy Queen". But suddenly they’re a rockin’ and a rollin’ and it has become a swinging number that causes everybody’s toes to tap. But it never loses its reverence, so we can be certain that it offended no one, least of all the Holy Queen to whom it was dedicated.
As we proceed across the Atlantic, the shipboard romance has come to fruition, with Jonathon and Margaret acknowledging that "Till There Was You", their respective lives were empty shells. But in retrospect, theirs was not the only romance on this long voyage. One of the passengers, a certain Gladys Spinster, (er, Finster) has pursued everything that moves from day one. She visualizes herself as Mrs. Captain Horatio, or as the wife of the tour director, oddly named Larry LaTour, or as Mrs. Doctor Forte (a name that has such a nice ring to it). Not to be denied, she finally latches on to the traveling undertaker, Mr. Digby O'Doul, who gets us all in the end, but in the meantime has to put up with Gladys, poor fella.
On to Rio, the heart and soul of South America, where Dolly Madison entertains those assembled with a beautifully haunting "Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina". Thence to the blue waters of the Caribbean, where Mr. Wright serenades his newly discovered paramour (and the rest of the passengers) with a boffo saxophone performance of "Tico Tico".
Returning to the good old USA, the dancers honor "Kokomo" and "Forty-second Street". In the meantime, the loose threads of this voyage have come together. The jewel thieves are reformed, and with the help of heavenly inspiration donate the proceeds of their theft to the nuns for their casino. Larry LaTour has formed a mutually comfortable liaison with Richard (oops) and they plan a later cruise on the Fairy Princess. Of the two coppers, one got her man and the other got his woman. Rocky Fortune, the FBI guy, lets the thieves slip through his fingers but succeeds in winning the love of Joy Barker, which all goes to prove that for WOW, love is far more eternal than diamonds.
In a closing tribute to those who make it all worthwhile, the ensemble, back in New York, sings "You’ve Been a Great Audience". The SS Wrinkles has survived another voyage and all is right with the world.
Under the able direction of Michele Penberthy, the music direction of Michael Frasier, and the sparkling choreography of Helen Siegwarth, this production showcased the remarkable comedic flair of four equally skilled performers. While there was not a person in the cast or crew who didn’t contribute mightily to the overall joy and fun, the glue that held it all together were the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: Mary Petzold and Chris Brewis-Roberts as Mother Marcus and Sister Torrence, respectively. Was there ever a more unique set of nuns, with gambling, wine, popesicles and mildly irreverent hymns on their agenda? Were bad and ugly ever better represented than by Bill Dergan and Vaude deVille as Joe and Charlie, international thieves who eventually reform because they hear voices from the heavens? WOW productions are intended to be light and fun. With these four characters cavorting on stage, they can hardly be anything else.
Click on the photos for enlargement and additional text. Photography by WOW photographer, John Vosburgh.
To the Audience! Below, from left to right - - - your guess is as good as ours. But this is the ensemble that made this wonderful show possible:
Laura Andersen, Jean Benedict, John Bennett, Chris Brewis-Roberts, Geri Campbell, Sherry Christianson, Mary Cullen, Linda Deem, Bill Dergan, Vaude deVille, Marigem Emde, Robert Freested, Chuck Gourley, Don Hancock, Sally Hancock, Donna Kine, Frank Kinney, Phyllis LaFontaine, Marilyn Lindell, Fay Lindseth, Dixie Maske, Al McClymond, Margaret McFarland, Lily Nielsen, Mary Patnode, Michele Penberthy, Mary Petzold, Roy Rasmussen, Joanie Roper, Lyle Russell, Bill Siegwarth, Helen Siegwarth, Julia Taylor, Susie Thomas, Jeanne Vosburgh, Patti Washburn, George Williams, Robert Williams, and Sharon Williams.