Wednesday, May 02, 2012

'Wonderful Town' by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green

2 May 2012

Since visiting New York last year (which I wrote about here in April 2011), I have become much more aware of quite how many films, books, plays and musicals are set in Manhattan – and much more interested in the geography of these narratives. So it was fascinating to discover Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Wonderful Town’ which forms the centrepiece of his trilogy of New York musicals and is, to some extent, the missing link between the more celebrated shows, ‘On The Town’ and ‘West Side Story’. The new production of ‘Wonderful Town’ – a collaboration between The Royal Exchange Theatre, The Hallé Concerts Society and The Lowry, directed by Braham Murray, which I saw at Milton Keynes Theatre – is a rare revival of a largely forgotten work. While the story is very slight and the songs didn’t escape to take on a life of their own, nevertheless it was a very enjoyable experience. And it was really interesting to spot little ideas and motifs that were recognisable precursors of ‘West Side Story’. The music was great – though I am sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to see the show at The Lowry in Salford where it was accompanied by the entire Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Sir Mark Elder: that must have been something to behold. I am glad I spent some time listening to recordings of the music beforehand so that it felt reasonably familiar. There were some wonderful big production numbers with great dancing, choreographed by Andrew Wright. For me, the showstopper was ‘Pass the football’ sung by Nic Greenshields as Wreck – an unusually structured chorus, “like nothing you have ever seen”. ‘Wonderful Town’ had a lot of similarities with ‘Guys and Dolls’ (reviewed here in February 2007) in its set, characters and score. But it was the hints of what was to come, not just in ‘West Side Story’ but also in ‘Candide’ that made it particularly compelling.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home