Wonderful Town, the classic New York Musical by Bernstein, Comden, and Green, will grace The 5th Avenue Theatre stage from March 21st to April 9th.
Wonderful Town was inspired by the real-life story of writer Ruth McKenney and her sister Eileen. They first appeared in short stories in The New Yorker magazine that were soon gathered together in a best-selling book, which in turn was adapted into a hit play, a hit movie, a stage musical, a completely different film musical and a television production.
One of the best musicals from Broadway's Golden age, Wonderful Town features music by Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story, Candide), lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Bells are Ringing, Do Re Mi), and a book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov based on their play My Sister Eileen. It opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on February 25th, 1953 under the direction of George Abbott. Rosalind Russell was Ruth and Edith Adams was Eileen. It won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Carol Channing replaced Russell, and Elaine Stritch was seen in a City Center mounting several years later.
In 2000, City Center Encores staged a concert of Wonderful Town with Donna Murphy (Passion) and Laura Benanti (The Wedding Singer) as the famous Sherwood sisters. That concert evolved into the 2004 revival that opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre with Murphy repeating her duties and Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) as Eileen. Kathleen Marshall provided direction and choreography, and won a Tony Award for her dances. Though it received strong reviews, that production is probably best known for Murphy's string of missed performances. Brooke Shields replaced Murphy briefly. A tour starring Lucie Arnaz was announced but never came to be.
Wonderful Town surrounds the madcap adventures of the Sherwood Sisters, who leave Ohio and find themselves in the middle of New York's heyday. The Bernstein-Comden-Green score features the lively opening "Christopher Street", the sentimental "Ohio" for the two sisters, Ruth's biting "One Hundred Easy Ways", Eileen's gorgeous "A Little Bit in Love", the cynical "What a Waste", the chaotic "Conga!", and the jazzy showstopper "Swing". Bernstein composed several famous instrumentals for the occasion, and one can hear the early makings of his classic West Side Story (1957) throughout.
The 5th Avenue cast features Sarah Rudinoff as Ruth; Billie Wildrick as Eileen; Timothy McCuen Piggee as Robert Baker; Nicole Boote as Helen; Brandon OšNeill as Wreck; Chad Jennings as Frank; Carol Swarbrick as Mrs. Wade; and David Pichette as Appopolous.
The ensemble includes Greg Michael Allen, David Alewine, Neil Badders, Matthew Bariletti, E. Scott Brating, Evan Bryant, Kari Lee Cartwright, Marc delaCruz, Ann Evans, Brigitte Graf, Richard Gray, Jayme McDaniel, Stacee Nault, Matt Owen, Maya RS Perkins, Bhama Roget, Pamela Turpen and Katie Young.
Wonderful Town features direction by The 5th Avenuešs Associate Artistic Director, Bill Berry. Jamie Rocco will choreograph and the conductor/musical director is Joel Fram. The design team includes scenery and lighting by Tom Sturge; costumes by Lynda Salsbury; and sound design by Andy Horka.
For tickets to Wonderful Town call (206) 292-2787, or visit www.5thavenuetheatre.org for more information.
Sarah Rudinoff as Ruth, Billie Wildrick as Eileen, and a fleet of conga dancers
Sarah Rudinoff as Ruth and Billie Wildrick as Eileen
Photos by Bootsy Holler