Wonderful Town, Musical by L. Bernstein
Two small-town girls pack a suitcase full of dreams and head to the Big City. The story is a plot line bordering on the cliché. However, as the guests of the Vienna Volksoper will experience, Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town looks and sounds nothing like that!
The storyline of this light-hearted yet full-throated homage to New York City finds its origins in the 1940 play My Sister Eileen, which details the adventures of Eileen and Ruth Sherwood. The two sisters hail from small-town Ohio and set their sights on the Big Apple. Hilarity ensues.
The musical is driven by its two heroines and their distinct personalities. Eileen is a commandingly charming, vivacious woman who brings every man to his knees, while Ruth is a more timid, romantic nature who is after true love and emotional connection. Naturally, this dynamic duo goes through a host of funny, coy, and slightly dramatic situations, all set to Bernstein's fresh and lively melodies.
Leonard Bernstein was originally asked to jazz up the first version of Wonderful Town by Leroy Anderson and Arnold Horwitt, an offer he turned down categorically. Instead, he joined forces with popular screen- and song-writing duo Adolph Green and Betty Comden to produce a new score and libretto in record time. The spontaneity, with which he worked, can be heard throughout the musical and is one of its recognisable features.
After a test run at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, Wonderful Town had its Broadway premiere on 25 February 1953 at the Winter Garden Theater, to rave reviews. The musical was distinguished with several Tony Awards and enjoyed a 559-performance run; a film version was produced in 1958.
To convey the liveliness and charm of 1930's New York City, Leonard Bernstein let the most popular musical forms of the time flow into his score. Ragtime, conga and swing are the backbone of Wonderful Town and amalgamate into an atmospheric, jazzed up musical profile which is a joy for the ears.
Music and text work together to deliver witty characterisation and move the plot along, such as the sweetly playful 'My Darlin’ Eileen' or the quietly sentimental 'A Little Bit In Love'. Bernstein also delivers the usual giant show-stopping numbers like 'Christopher Street' or 'Conga!' as well as tasty instrumental transitions.
Wonderful Town's inimitable energy graces the stage of Volksoper Wien this season!