Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Wonderful Town the Musical: Theatre Review

Wonderful Town is based on the novel My Sister Eileen, which itself is based on a collection of short stories by Ruth McKenney. It was then made into a play, then a film, then the musical! The musical originally ran on Broadway in 1953 and closed the following year. A production then opened in London in 1955 and starred the likes of Shani Wallace and Sid James and a revival opened in 1986 at the Queens Theatre. A Broadway production opened in 2003 staring Donna Murphy (Later Brooke Shields) which earned her a Tony Award nomination.
Recently we saw the return of the show when it toured the UK, this production starred 'How do you solve a problem like Maria?' winner Connie Fisher.
Wonderful Town follows the story of two sisters, Eileen and Ruth both of which want to make it in New York. Ruth who is an aspiring journalist and Eileen who wants to be an Actress move into the city and end up having a very hard time, they can't seem to catch a break. Eileen uses her charm to try and help Ruth in her bid to become a professional journalist but that goes wrong as someone who claims to have been able to help was just using the situation to get to Eileen, the Marilyn Monroe type character.
Like a classic Broadway musical, everyone catches a break in the end and everyone also finds love! The production has been directed by Braham Murray who seems to get the production and has obviously got a lot of love for it as this can be seen in the care he has handled this musical with.
Andrew Wright choreographs this production and his work is incredible, one of the best chorographers of our time. His work is just indescribable, by far the best thing about this show. Simon Higlett designs this production really well, something that is quite hard to achieve is a professional look to a touring show and he does this well and he brings a classic Broadway style to the set which is just perfect for it.
The cast is lead by Connie Fisher who was brought to the attention of the public from the nationwide search for the Maria in The Sound of Music which played at the Palladium Theatre. She plays Ruth Sherwood in the production and she plays it well. It's a hard role as all of her numbers have a full dance routine that goes with it; although she did a good job I couldn't help but think she played it far too cheesy and way too animated. Maybe that's what they were going for but for me it didn't work.
Lucy Van Gasse makes the perfect Eileen; she plays the role beautifully with astonishing vocals. Definitely someone who I would suspect to play Glinda in Wicked in the future! To me, she was one of the best things about the production. Joseph Alessi as Chick Clerk, Well, I thought it was just a member of the ensemble. Didn't realise it was an actual part! Think that says enough. Tiffany Graves was fantastic as Helen, a role which doesn't seem needed in the show but she does it justice. She's an amazing talent and was so underused in this show, can't wait to see what she does next.
Nic Greenshields has an amazing voice, played the role brilliantly! His song 'Pass the Football' seemed to go on forever but it was sung marvellously. Michael Xavier is another one who has a fantastic voice, the talent in this show was astonishing. However Michael was forgettable in the show, a delight to watch but not a memorable portrayal. The ensemble in the show were amazing, they adopted the Broadway style perfectly! With Frankie Jenna and Peter McPherson standing out for me.
The show was fun, a proper Broadway musical. Absolute classic! However it did drag on. The Overture was about 25 minutes, if you had a bag of sweets you'd be done with them by time the curtain came up. Apart from everything being way longer than it needed to be it was a good show. Not expecting any transfer any time soon, but it was fantastic. The Choreography being the highlight.
Rating: ***

Wonderful Town finished its tour on the 7thJuly 2012 in Cardiff, Wales

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