Leonard Bernstein’s score for Wonderful Town is nearly 60 years old and although not a memorable storyline, with no real dramatic appeal it is nostalgic and joyous and indeed lifts the soul.
The story is simply about two sisters, Ruth (Connie Fisher) and Eileen Sherwood (Lucy Van Gasse) who leave their hometown in Ohio in the hope of fulfilling their dreams and ambitions in New York. Eileen is yearning for a glittering stage career and Ruth is set on becoming a writer.
The partnership is a real winner and although the plot is predictable it is nonetheless executed brilliantly.
Connie Fisher, who is fortunate enough to have the funniest lines in the show, exhibits excellent comic timing and is a munificent entertainer. She leads a rambunctious conga, with a crew of Brazilian sailors at the end of Act One which transports the audience into the jazz and swing of days gone by. The character is a far cry from her portrayal of Maria in The Sound of Music and demonstrates her outstanding versatility.
Lucy Van Gasse plays the ditzy blonde to perfection and has a beautiful clear tone to her voice which soars through the auditorium. The sisters, although very different, complement each other in a convincing manner. Their duets are poignant and well balanced, if a little ‘hammy’.
Bob Baker, played by Michael Xavier is a relaxed and laconic leading man with a striking tenor voice. He is totally believable as the romantic interest.
The ensemble numbers are positively effervescent throughout, both in song and dance. Andrew Wright has choreographed various high profile shows and been nominated for many awards. This is obvious by his rousing creativity in this production, which lifts the whole show. The opening chorus of ‘Christopher Street’ and the men’s ironic ‘What a Waste’ number are particular highlights for me. ‘My Darlin’ Eileen’ acappella singing is also stunningly delivered by the Irish policemen.
Wreck (Nic Greenshields) is an affable giant and leads the ensemble in ‘Pass the Football’ with both zest and panache. The cameo roles are well cast and accomplished. There is no weak link.
The sets are inspirational and the scene changes flawless. The lighting is perfect for the period, and the costumes add colour and flair to each scene. From the overture to the finale the orchestra, under the baton of James Burton, supports the cast admirably and sensitively.
This could have been yet another revival of a tired old show, but the enthusiasm and sheer talent of all involved make this a far more positive experience and a great night out.