Al Hirschfeld Theatre
A Jujamcyn Theatre
302 West 45th Street
Book By Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall
Supervising Musical Director and Vocal Arranger: Rob Fisher
Starring: Donna Murphy and Jennifer Westfeldt
David Margulies, Michael McGrath, Raymond Jaramillo McLeod, Peter Benson, Nancy Anderson, Ken Barnett, Randy Danson, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Linda Mucleston, Timothy Shew, and Ray Wills
Produced by Roger Berlind, Barry and Fran Weissler, Edwin W. Schloss, Allen Spivak, Clear Channel Entertainment and Harvey Weinstein, Alicia Parker, and Daniel M. Posener
Press Representative: The Pete Sanders Group
Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Lew Mead
Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Make-up Design: Angelina Avellone
Script Adaptation: David Ives
Casting: Jay Binder/Laura Stanczyk
Original Orchestration: Don Walker
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Production Supervisor: Arthur Siccardi
Production Stage Manager: Peter Hanson
Associate Choreographer: Vince Pesce
General Manager: B. J. Holt
Musical Director: Rob Berman
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 21, 2004
If you are looking for a Broadway show that's confection and perfection, Wonderful Town is the one to choose. John Lee Beatty's sets and Martin Pakledinaz' costumes are brilliantly evocative of New York at its finest. Peter Kaczorowski's glistening lighting enhances the whimsical, colorful skylines. The music is Leonard Bernstein at his best, the finest Broadway score of his vast career. The Comden and Green lyrics bounce across the stage like lemon drops, so sweet, but sometimes tart. Rob Fisher's passionate orchestra follows the action, filling the theatre with rollicking rhythm and warming our hearts on this ever so blustery January eve, almost 70 years after the 1935 downtown, Manhattan scene that evolves before our eyes.
But beyond sets, costumes, music, and lyrics, the strength behind this remarkable production emanates from Donna Murphy, the tiny dynamo of a singer, actress, mime, dancer, and ginseng gymnast. Ms. Murphy has the ability to dramatize the original Ruth McKenney stories as Ruth Sherwood, the utterly optimistic writer from Columbus, Ohio, who walks through every closed door with determination and vivacity and falls in love on the way. Her renditions of One Hundred Easy Ways and A Quiet Girl are endearing and enchanting. What a voice, what a sense of presence. Donna Murphy may be the most charismatic vocal actress Broadway has seen in quite some years.
Wonderful Town, a remake of the 1942 film, My Sister Eileen, and of the original 1953 Broadway musical with Rosalind Russell, tells a tale of spunk and sex appeal, with Ruth and Eileen (Jennifer Westfeldt) using their feminine wiles to save their travail and travel to the Big City from Columbus Ohio, where they were bored to tears. Now they are broke to tears, but it seems every sailor, policeman, neighbor, landlord, soda jerk, office boy, jazz club owner, and office manager want to give them a break or give them a kiss. Ms. Westfeldt, as Eileen, calls every man by his first name, including the policemen who foolishly jail her and the journalist who falls in love with her sister. The scene of two sisters singing and hugging in bed, dressed in retro nighties, was utterly adorable and poignant. The Jazz Club act was a show within a show.
The entire cast of Wonderful Town was flawless and functioned as one cohesive team that played off the energy and effervescence of the action and athletics. The Conga Line, the chorus line of policemen and sailors, the innocent tossing of the "girls" into the muscular arms of "boys", the original Greenwich Village personalities that greeted us in dance, including a great Martha Graham sequence, the Swinging Villagers, and the Jazz Club antics all entertained with non-stop bravura. Even in silence, when the sisters invited three men to a fantasy dinner, with wine as the entree, the campiness and innocent characterizations were outstanding.
Raymond Jaramillo McLeod, as Wreck, his girlfriend Helen (Nancy Anderson), and her mother, Violet (Linda Mugleston), are hilarious and central to the ongoing antics of the eclectic and eccentric, Village personalities. David Margulies as Appopolous, Eileen and Ruth's Greek Landlord, who sports a fisherman's cap, easel, and palette, is another endearing addition to Depression era, Downtown life. Gregg Edelman, as Ruth's amour, Robert Baker, sacrifices his magazine position as proof of devotion to the under appreciated Ruth and ultimately wins her elusive adoration. Eileen has her own collection of suitors, and Peter Bensen, as the awkward soda jerk, and Michael McGrath, as a street-smart reporter, were both superb.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green injected exquisite ethnic lyrics, and Kathleen Marshall, the Director and Choreographer, deserves one million accolades for split second timing and seamless, sassy, sexy, scintillating dance sequences. I am tempted to search for the original 1942 film, My Sister Eileen, and the stories of Ruth McKenney. Kudos to Maestro Leonard Bernstein, and kudos to Donna Murphy, who has secured a name in Broadway history. And, kudos to tonight's audience of dedicated souls, who braved sub-zero bluster to reach this warm and crackling production.