Wanda Butternut is the popular host of the hit TV talk show “Wanda’s World,” where kids call in to get advice from Wanda to solve their problems. Wanda is beautiful, confident and always knows what to say…in her fantasy. In real life, Wanda is a middle school girl with a big birthmark on her face, who is terrified to deal with the first day of school in a new town. Gradually, with the help of an extraordinary teacher, she overcomes incredible odds and learns to follow her own path. WANDA’S WORLD was produced Off-Broadway where it received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Book of a Musical. It also received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Musical.
All photos from the 2008 AMAS Production, © Carol Rosegg
The night before her first day of school in her new hometown of Cheese Valley, USA, twelve-year-old Wanda Butternut is panicked. In the privacy of her bedroom, she copes with her fears by entering the safety of “Wanda’s World”, a TV talk show she has invented where other kids call in to tell her their problems. She is its “way cool, way beautiful, way talented” host and she gives awesome advice aided by her faithful dog and co-host, Spangles. “Caller Number Three” confesses that she has a terrible birthmark on her face. Wanda suggests that she cover it with makeup, but the caller says that makeup doesn’t work. Wanda tells her that she has to be perfect in every other way “right down to the ring tone on your cell phone”. Wanda’s mother interrupts her fantasy, “Wanda, time for bed!” She reminds Wanda that she has to get up early to put on her makeup. Wanda touches the birthmark on her cheek and responds despondently, “Mom, it doesn’t work anyway!” Spangles licks her face to comfort her and coaxes her to continue her show, “You can’t let down Caller Number Three!”
The next day, the halls at Cheese Valley Middle School are abuzz with the news that school heartthrob, Ty Belvedere, “like-likes” the leader of the girls’ clique, Jenny Hightower. (“No One Can Know”). Too busy with their gossiping, no one even notices Wanda who is desperately searching for her classroom. When she finally makes it to Spanish Class, Señorita Dinglederry begins to scold her for being late. Then she sees The Birthmark. So do the kids. They gasp. Dinglederry becomes overly solicitous. Wanda is miserable. At lunch, as a joke, Jenny invites Wanda to sit with her and her clique. She pretends to befriend her “so what are you ‘into’, Wanda?” Flattered, Wanda confesses that she’s very interested in becoming involved with the school TV channel. Behind her back (and later to her face) Jenny and the other girls criticize everything about Wanda, and call her a “freak.” (“She’s So Last Week”) The girls drop Wanda and go wild when heartthrob, Ty Belvedere, appears. Jenny and Ty express their confidence that it’s going to be a very good year. Class bully, P.J. Dunbar, knocks into Wanda on purpose causing her to drop her tray adding to her embarrassment. A couple of weeks later, in Audio Visual class taught by Mr. Lemmings (who doubles as the Vice-Principal) Wanda is given the job of holding cue cards for the Cheese Valley News. She drops them and feels she can’t do anything right. On air, Jenny is the host. She introduces Alison Carmichael and Ty Belvedere who announce their candidacies for student council president. Ty explains why he should be elected (“What’s Not To Like?”). After the class, P.J. tells his buddies that he is sick of Ty. P.J. also “like-likes” Jenny but she won’t give him the time of day. P.J. decides that he’s going to run for president against Ty, vowing that he will bring Ty Belvedere down by manipulating the hapless Wanda, (“Operation Shutdown”.)
Meanwhile, Wanda’s show goes awry… None of her advice has worked for her fantasy callers, and they are complaining. She threatens to cancel the show. A rock star appears and challenges her to stand up for herself. (“Don’t Mess With Me.” ) Wanda continues to work very hard in the TV production class and begins to excel partly due to all the practice on her imaginary TV show. Mr. Lemmings rewards her by giving her the plum assignment of covering the big football game for School News Channel 23! Jenny is furious about this and accuses Wanda of being the “teacher’s pet.” After all, the star quarterback is Ty Belvedere! Nevertheless, Wanda takes her assignment very seriously and covers the game – (“Blow Them Away.”) Although nobody else notices, she sees that Ty is limping slightly during the game. Despite the injury he is trying to hide, he scores the winning touchdown and saves the day for Cheese Valley. After the game, Wanda rushes in for an interview but Jenny blocks her way. Surprisingly, P.J. sticks up for Wanda. He suggests that Wanda go to Ty’s house to get her story. She balks at first, but P.J. and his cronies convince her that it’s a good idea. Timidly, Wanda approaches Ty and interviews him with her video cam in his backyard. His knee is very swollen and now Ty is panicked – fearing that he won’t be able to continue playing sports and live up to his brothers’ hero legacy. Due to Wanda’s innate skill, he is able to confide on camera. Hiding out in the bushes, the nefarious P.J and his buddies snap photos of Wanda and Ty in close proximity. After the interview, Ty asks Wanda if she is going to vote for him for student body president. He is shocked when she says she’s not sure. He asks why and she explains that she wants to vote for someone who realizes not everyone is the same. For example, not everyone in Cheese Valley eats cheese because they are lactose intolerant, and those people should be taken under consideration, too. One of Ty’s campaign promises is to have “Pizza Fridays”. Wanda suggests that it is time for soy cheese to be introduced into Cheese Valley, (“Not Everyone Eats Cheese”.) Ty is impressed with Wanda and tells her so. She is very excited to have befriended the most popular guy in school and dreams of dancing with him at the Halloween party.
Mr. Lemmings thinks Wanda’s interview with Ty is superb. He offers Wanda her own show on School Channel 23! Wanda is thrilled. She tells him that she dreams of hosting a show where kids could call in and talk about their problems. Ty delivers a speech the day before the election incorporating Wanda’s ideas about respecting people’s differences. The student body has never heard of soy cheese! In the Girls Bathroom before the Halloween Dance, Wanda is feeling inadequate and is about to chicken out of going to the dance, but Ms. Dinglederry emerges from one of the stalls in full flamenco costume and encourages her to go. She tells Wanda she just needs a little bit of Spanish in her – (“Diva Latina.”) At the Halloween dance, P.J. spikes the punch and makes Mr. Lemmings and Señorita Dinglederry tipsy. As they tango out of the gym, he tells Wanda that she should ask Ty to dance because Ty is too shy to ask her. When she does, Ty hesitates and P.J. and his cronies move in. They heckle him, saying they know he really “like-likes” Blotches, the horrible name P.J. has invented for Wanda. They show everyone incriminating slides of Ty and Wanda (the dark side of photo-shop). They pressure Ty to admit he likes Wanda. Jenny throws him a stricken look. Ty caves to peer pressure. Wanda flees the dance, humiliated and devastated. Mr. Lemmings sees her running out of the school. He follows her and asks what’s wrong. She tells him and says she’s never coming back to the school. Mr. Lemmings reveals that he was the butt of the other kids’ humor when he was Wanda’s age, “Maybe you’ve noticed, I have a slight s-s-stutter.” She is desolate that there is no place for her anywhere on the planet. (“A Face Like Mine”.) He inspires her to have the courage to face her considerable challenge.
The next day, P.J. is bragging to Jenny and the other kids. He thinks he has the election sewn up because of what he has done to Ty. When Wanda passes by, he gloats over his victory and tries to impress everyone with new insults for Blotches. To everybody’s amazement, Wanda stands up for herself. Ty witnesses the scene and sticks up for her, apologizing to her for his behavior the night before. He declares that Wanda is indeed his friend. He even renounces Jenny for her cruelty, “From now on, I just want to hang out with people who are nice.” He warns P.J. never to bother Wanda again. Everyone rejects P.J. A few weeks later, Wanda’s dream comes true! She is on the air with her very own show – “Wanda’s World” – where she really does take calls from kids with problems and gives them advice borne from her own experience. Newly-elected student council president, Ty Belvedere, is her co-host. Caller Number One has an eating disorder. Wanda knows just what to say. Caller Number Two is scared of a certain bully in school. Wanda knows just what to say. Caller Number Three used to be the most popular girl in school but now she has acne! She feels sure that nobody will ever like her again. All of a sudden, Wanda recognizes the voice—it is Jenny. Wanda knows just what to say, “I’ll come and see you cheer, Jenny! We’ll do a whole story on you!” After all it is Wanda’s World where every kid has the chance to be heard. Give her a call!
WANDA’S WORLD Music & Lyrics by: Beth Falcone Book by: Eric H. Weinberger Story by Eric H. Weinberger & Beth Falcone
6 female and 5 male featured roles
Expandable ensemble with featured solos and lines
WANDA’S WORLD can be performed with as few as 11 actors (6F/5M) or as many as you wish. The small cast is broken down as follows: 5 girls, 1 adult female (who plays two roles), and 4 boys, 1 adult male (who plays two roles, one being a dog)
Expanding the WANDA’S WORLD Cast: The cast list below outlines the expanded cast (with an asterisk * indicating added roles). Specific notes explaining how we added/adapted some of these roles are included. If you follow along with the script while looking at the list, it should be clear how you can make similar adjustments to suit the needs of your talent pool.
THE CAST (in order of Vocal Part):
SPANGLES: Our Spangles was played by a boy, but it could also be a girl. SPANGLES is Wanda’s loyal dog, but in her fantasy, he is the charismatic announcer of her TV show and the rock star who boosts her courage in “Don’t Mess With Me.” This actor also doubled as a student in the ensemble.
*WANDA’S DREAMGIRLS: A trio of singer/dancers who are like Wanda’s “Supremes” in her fantasy TV show. As part of her fantasy, they are there to support Wanda and react to the callers. They sang the first stanza of the opening number, and then the rest of the ensemble joined them (wearing robes and underdressed with school clothes). WANDA’S DREAMGIRLS also sang the opening lines in scene 7 (we changed it to “give HER a call”, and added harmony). In “Don’t Mess With Me”, they sang “Well are you gonna take it” before the rest of the dancers entered.
WANDA BUTTERNUT: This role requires the most versatile and honest actress/singer you can find. A few technical notes: 1) Find a good makeup artist to experiment with birthmark makeup (red, blue, purple) under the lights you’ll be using. Be sure the birthmark “reads” well to the back of your auditorium; 2) Give WANDA plenty of rehearsal time with her wig in the opening number. It needs to cover the birthmark in her fantasy sequences, and she needs to be able to put it on and take it off quickly.
CALLER #1: Cocoa Beach – “blend equals friend” girl, in opening AND scene 7 & 16
CALLER #2: Bethlehem, PA – “pack snacks” girl, in opening AND scene 7 & 16
CALLER #3: Madison, WI – “take control” girl, in opening AND scene 7 & 16
JAKE: Wants to be an athlete, but clearly isn’t. It is funny if he is awkward in some way.
ETHAN: Our ETHAN happened to be a tap dancer, so in the football scene where he played the Cheese Valley Cow mascot, he performed a funny tap solo.
TY BELVEDERE: The audience has to believe that the girls would go crazy for this boy.
MEGHAN: To expand JENNY’S clique, we reassigned MEGHAN’S “Totally” lines (repeated throughout the show) to the added character of TINA. CORY: We reassigned her “Tell me about it” lines to TASHA. (see below)
*BECKY: An added member of JENNY’S clique. Hears the gossip from CORY in “No One Can Know.” Smarter than the others in the clique.
P.J. DUNBAR: Our PJ was really short, which added to the comedy of this strong character.
JENNY HIGHTOWER: The only change we made regarding JENNY is that we reassigned her lines in “She’s So Last Week” so that all the girls in her clique had solos.
*TINA: Added member of JENNY’S clique. Idolizes JENNY. Always says “totally” after JENNY says something she thinks is cool. Screams when she’s excited. A gum chewer.
*TASHA: Added member of JENNY’S clique. Obsessed with her own hair. Very critical of others, especially WANDA. Always says “tell me about it” after TINA says “totally.”
MS. DINGLEDERRY: We had an adult actress in the role. Requires maturity, sensitivity and humor.
MR. LEMMINGS: We had an adult actor in the role. Needs to be a father figure to WANDA.
*JOCKS: A clique in the Ensemble
*SKATERS: A clique in the Ensemble
*CHEESE VALLEY GLEE CLUB: Six strong harmonizers (“Glee” geeks) who sing the theme song at the beginning the school TV show.
ALISON CARMICHAEL: Very dull candidate for student council president. Different from the other girls. Book-smart but socially awkward and nerdy. Tries to act very professional.
*EMILY: ALISON’S best friend and personal assistant for her presidential campaign. Clumsy and nervous under the pressure of the campaign. Emily doesn’t have “lines” but can whisper and have intensely private conversations with ALISON. They are a comical pair.
CHEERLEADERS: JENNY’S clique. Add as many others as you want, and have uniforms & pompoms for.
*CHUCK: Football commentator:(instead of MR. LEMMINGS, in Scene 9)
*VAL: Football commentator:(instead of MS. DINGLEDERRY, in Scene 9)
CALLER #4: Hot Springs , AR – “hot-guy-noticed-me girl” in scene 11 & 16
CALLER #5: “Am I fat?” girl in Finale
CALLER #6: “Flush head down toilet” wimpy boy in Finale (in our production, he hung out with ALISON & EMILY throughout the show)
Bass (Electric & Upright Bass)
Drums (Drum Set)
Reed 1 (Flute, Clarinet, & Tenor Sax)
Guitar (Electric & Nylon String Acoustic)