Music by Leonard Bernstein book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green based on the ply My Sister Eileen by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov and short stories by Ruth McKenney.

The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) To 21 April.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0843 208 6000.

then tour to 7 July 2012.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 April.

Sinuously insinuating, sophisticated songs in a musical that proclaims New York, New York.
If West Side Story is Leonard Bernstein’s equivalent to a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, with its lush melodies and gripping story, Wonderful Town, coming four years earlier in 1953, is his Rodgers and Hart. More astringent, witty and playful, it tells of the Sherwood sisters, Ruth and Eileen, aspiring writer and actress respectively, arriving wide-eyed in 1930s New York’s bohemian Greenwich Village.

Settling in the shabby apartment foisted on them by an artist-landlord, they’re visited by interlopers assuming they’re in the same occupation, as well as address, as their streetwalker predecessor.

Glamorous Eileen soon has men swooning; even under arrest she’s queen of the cells, the Irish cops claiming her as one of heir own. Life’s tougher for straight-talking Eileen. There are the empty promises of a flash journalist, and thorns on the path of true love, along with good writing advice, from Michael Xavier’s eligible editor.

In his office, facing anonymously away, staff remorselessly read and, mostly, reject submissions while Xavier’s Bob Baker describes the New York ingénue’s dashed hopes in a song of telegraphic curtness. Bernstein’s music, like Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s lyrics, characterise their theme; ‘What A Waste’ dispatches hopes down the scale at each stanza’s end.

Throughout, musical numbers take the sisters from the dreamy homesickness of “Ohio” through the jazzy self-accusation of Ruth’s ‘100 Easy Ways To Lose A Man’ to their final integration in the city with “Wrong Note Rag’, alongside the eventual love song’s short-breathed lyricism.

All are put across with zest in Braham Murray’s agile production, shifting locations, creating quick character-sketches around the more deeply-etched central folk. Wit and sophistication exude from the colourful New York outlines and community feel of the Village.

Connie Fisher has everything but the comic self-knowledge Maureen Lipman gave the 1986 Watford/London production. There’s a strong cast around her in this Manchester team effort – director from the Royal Exchange Theatre, opening venue Salford’s Lowry and the Hallé orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, achieving moments of sustained beauty rare in musical theatre. The tour has a Hallé-based band who’ll doubtless keep up the very good work.

Tour Guide: Peter McPherson.
Mr Appopolous: Sévan Stephan.
Helen: Tiffany Graves.
Wreck: Nic Greenshields.
Violet/Mrs Wade: Annette Yeo.
Officer Lonigan: Paul Hawkyard.
Modern Dancers: Lucy James, Oliver Roll.
Radicals: Katy Hards, Giovanni Spano.
Yogi/Fletcher/Drunk/Editor 2: Bob Harms.
Speedy Valenti: Michael Matus.
Eileen: Lucy van Gasse.
Ruth: Connie Fisher.
Kid: Liam Wrate.
Drunk/Eskimo Pie Man/Waiter: Giovanni Spano.
Bob Baker: Michael Xavier
Drunk/Editor 1/Shore Patrolman/Man with Sign: Matt Wilman.
Frank Lippencott: Haydn Oakley.
Drunk/Chef: Alain Terzoli.
Chick Clark: Joseph Alessi.
Tourists/Greenwich Villagers/Modern Dancers/Editors/Cadets/Cops: 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 Murray.
Designer/Costume: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Clement Rawling.
Music Director: Sir Mark Elder.
Choreographer: Andrew Wright.
Dialect coaches: Richard Ryder, Jan Haydn Rowles.
Associate director: Rania Jumaily.
Associate musical director: James Burton.
Assistant choreographer: Lucy James.

2012-04-21 10:34:16

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