Ballad of a mean girl

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In “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” the likable and surprisingly poignant Off Broadway musical comedy playing at the Westside Theater, Astoria resident Victoria Matlock plays Cindy Lou, the popular but nasty girl most of us knew — and usually hated — in high school.

Tall and pretty, with flowing, brunette hair and a snooty air of entitlement, Cindy Lou is the most fetching member of The Marvelous Wonderettes, Springfield High School’s all−girl singing group, who are preparing to perform at the school’s prom in 1958.

Cindy Lou is the kind of gal who thinks nothing of stealing away her best friend’s fella. And when she stands on stage to compete for prom queen against three other coeds, she is so confident of victory that the only “talent” she offers the judges is modeling what she believes to be her own perfect form.

“My character is mean. At least in the first act, she is a mean girl,” said Matlock in an interview following a recent performance. “She just knows she is going to be prom queen. It is just a fact. Her mother has been telling her that she is the most beautiful. It is just a fact. I know that girl, because we all know that girl.”

But when fate — and the prom queen judges — deal Cindy Lou and her friends some unexpected cards, “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” and even its largely familiar soundtrack, take on an interesting and wistful second dimension.

By the second act, Matlock has transformed Cindy Lou into a largely sympathetic and more complex character.

“She realized that she wasn’t the person she wanted to be,” said Matlock. “It was a lot of fun to do on stage. To have a real arc to my character.”

Talking to Matlock, it doesn’t take very long to realize that though she may have Cindy Lou’s looks, her attitudes and personal history are far different.

She grew up in Salt Lake City and attended schools composed overwhelmingly of kids from families who were members of the Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints. Her family, however, is not Mormon.

“The few of us at school were the ridiculed clique,” she recalled. “We were not popular by any means.”

Like a lot of other bright teenagers who perceive themselves as misfits, Victoria took refuge in the theater.

“I would dive into the characters I was playing, dive into the singing to escape the harsh reality of high school and not being the cheerleader,” she said. “I was much more vulnerable than Cindy Lou. I took the hurts a lot more internally that Cindy Lou does.”

Victoria credits her parents with supporting her early interests in the theater. As a child, she spent hours play−acting roles in the beautiful sequined gowns her mother Susane wore when she danced on a local television show in Salt Lake City. Each of the gowns was designed and hand−sewn by Susane’s own mother.

But it was when her dad John invited her to accompany him on a business trip to New York City at the age of 13 that Victoria first realized that her flickering notion of performing on a grand stage needn’t remain a daydream.

Sensing how important acting was to his daughter, Victoria’s dad not only secured two tickets to “Phantom of the Opera,” but also rented a limousine and took his daughter out to dinner.

“Ever since that night and the moment that I realized that they do plays like “Phantom of the Opera” every night, I wanted to come here,” she said.

After earning a degree in musical theater from the University of Northern Colorado, she realized her dream and moved to New York. Well, sort of. Though she has long called the city home, Matlock has spent much of her successful early career on tour. She was in the national tours of “Wicked,” “Evita” and “The Full Monty” and regional tours of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cats” and “The Sound of Music,” among others.

As thrilled as she is to be in as well−received a production as “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” she is at least as happy to be able to spend some down time at home in Queens with her husband, the actor Fletcher Stephens, and their pets.

As she headed towards the theater for the second of two Wednesday performances, Matlock was asked to surmise where Cindy Lou might have ended up 10 years after the final curtain of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

“I think that in 10 years from then, she would be a pretty normal, pretty nice person,” said Matlock. “She probably would find someone else to love. I can see her becoming someone pretty comfortable in her own skin.”

And where did the actress see herself in a decade, and did she feel that she had changed at all since leaving Salt Lake for Gotham?

“In 10 years I will hopefully still be on Broadway,” she said, looking up at the ceiling of the diner in which we were chatting. “Since coming to New York, I know that I have become a more confident person. I am less shy than I was, less introverted than I was.”

Finally, why do “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and these characters resonate so loudly with so many members of the audience?

“I think it says a lot about human nature,” Matlock said. “Everybody wants to know what happened to those girls they knew in high school. It’s surprising how much the show does say. It says that people can change and that situations can change and that nothing is ever as it seems.”

The Marvelous Wonderettes is playing at the Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43 St.

Worth The Trip:

Bernstein: The Best Of All Possible Worlds

It is well known that one of Leonard Bernstein’s greatest pleasures was spreading the wonders of classical music to young people. It is likely that many of today’s most avid musical patrons were introduced to Bach and Mahler at one of Bernstein’s many afternoon concerts for young people.

Another of the maestro’s great passions, of course, was composing music. But not even Bernstein could have imagined that Carnegie Hall, and an orchestra of public school students, might one day be honoring his memory with performances of, and inspired by, one of his compositions.

Talented musicians from JHS 210, Bayside High School and the Frank Sinatra High School will join other student from across the city this month for two performances honoring Bernstein’s memory and the 53 televised Young People’s Concerts he performed with the New York Philharmonic.

This Sunday at 3 p.m., the students will perform the choral compositions they wrote, working with professional composers, and inspired by Bernstein’s “Mass.” The performance will take place in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m., a large choir of hundreds of New York City students will perform Bernstein’s “Mass” with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony at the United Palace Theater in Upper Manhattan, 4140 Broadway.

Carnegie Hall is also offering other wonderful concerts this week and next in its season−long tribute to Bernstein. The season−long Bernstein tribute will feature other notable concerts,

For more information or tickets, call CarnegieCharge at 212−247−7800 or go online at www.carnegiehall.org.

Jazz Organ Overlooking Central Park

Hammond organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco brings his group to Lincoln Center’s Allen Room, perhaps the city’s loveliest jazz venue, for two nightly shows between Oct. 17 and 19.

The trio features drummer Idris Muhammad and guitarist Paul Bollenback, plus tenor saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman, Vince Herring and John Nugent.

The concert kicks off Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Smokin’ Jazz Sessions.

“Some might think that the stage won’t be big enough for all that music. I say bring it on,” said DeFrancesco, who has won six consecutive Down Beat magazine critics poll awards.

The concerts are at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are $60 and available by calling CenterCharge at 212−721−6500 or via www.jalc.org.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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