WONDERFUL TOWN: Leonard Bernstein; Joseph Fields, Jerome Chodorov; Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Birmingham Hippodrome till 26 05 12
Touring Till 7 July, information and booking http://www.wonderfultown.co.uk/
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval
Review: 22 May, Alexander Ray
You’ll feel so much better for seeing this.
It’s a long time since I’ve had such an outright, sheer, feel-good time. WONDERFUL TOWN doesn’t have a bad person in it, whacky, oh yes, to a man and a woman, but that’s the fun of it. Then you’ve got the Bernstein genius – written four years before WEST SIDE STORY, you catch tantalising aural glimpses of what’s to come. Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s lyrics have their glorious moments – even rhyming Ohio with Why-oh has its charms.
And the entire show is done with such panache! The grin doesn’t leave your face from the first note to the final double bar line.
What’s it about? – On the face of it, wannabe young journalist, Ruth, who comes with her sister to New York to make her fame as a writer (based on a true story by the way.) But that’s not really what it’s about, it’s about the very whacky people mentioned above – those who live in Greenwich Village. Their sheer good humour is infectious.
Connie Fisher is stunning as Ruth, the journalist. She has a deft touch with comedy, but it’s her ability to handle a wide range of musical styles with aplomb that grabs you. Gorgeous in her early duet with her sister, OHIO, and alight in her scat SWING. Now who but a madman would base a big end-of-first-half number around a Conga? Bernstein does – and makes it work; Fisher feistily (and hilariously) holds her own in the number, surrounded as she is by a host(?) of thrusting sailors.
Lucy van Gasse creates a fine ditzy sister Eileen, building a strong bond with Fisher/Ruth. Michael Xavier is a handsome and warm Bob Baker, with a voice that’s handsome and warm too.
This is a big band of wonderful characters, and everyone fully fleshed out and a joy to watch.
Simon Higlett’s bright, picture-book designs (fitting – the origin of the story was a cartoon strip) are the icing on the cake. And Andrew Wright’s choreography is both anarchic and sharp as a razor.
Tour Guide: Peter McPherson
Mr Appoolous: Sevan Stephan
Helen: Tiffany Graves
Wreck: Nic Greenshields
Violet: Annette Yeo
Officer Lonigan: Paul Hawkyard
Modern Dancers: Lucy James, Oliver Roll
Radicals: Katy Hards, Giovanni Spano
A Yogi: Bob Harms
Speedy Valenti: Michael Matus
Eileen: Lucy van Gasse
Ruth: Connie Fisher
Fletcher: Bob Harms
A Kid: Liam rate
Drunks: Alain Terzoli, Giovanni Spano
Eskimo Pie Man: Giovanni Spano
Bob Baker: Michael Xavier
Editor 1: Matt Wilman
Editor 2: Bob Harms
Mrs Wade: Annette Yeo
Frank Lippencott: Haydn Oakley
Chef: Alain Terzoli
Waiter: Giovanni Spano
Chick Clark: Joseph Alessi
Shore Patrolman: Matt Wilman
Man With Sign: Matt Wiman
Other roles: Emily Goodenough, Katy Hards, Lucy James, Frankie Jenna, Lucinda Lawrence, Natalie Moore-Williams, Bob Harms, Peter McPherson, Oliver Roll, Giovanni Spano, Alain Terzoli, Matt Wilman, Liam Wrate
Director: Braham MurrayChoreographer: Andrew Wright
Set and Costume Designer: Simon Higlett
Lighting Designer: Chris Davey
Sound Designer: Clement Rawling
Musical Director: James Burton
Associate Director: Rania Jumaily
Assistant Choreographer: Lucy James
Dialect Coaches: Richard Ryder and Jan Haydn Rowles