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Wonderful Town

MabesNY
Chorus Member
joined:5/15/03
Chorus Member
joined:
5/15/03
Wonderful Town#0
Posted: 11/24/03 at 1:29pm
Liz Smith gushes over "Wonderful Town" in her column today.

http://www.nypost.com/gossip/liz.htm
QueenS
Leading Actor
joined:8/15/03
Leading Actor
joined:
8/15/03
re: Wonderful Town#1
Posted: 11/24/03 at 1:42pm
I don't blame her.

Murphy definitely makes the show. Westfeldt is charming as Eileen and everyone else is good, if not brilliant. But they don't have brilliant material to work with- the show was written to showcase one woman and that's exactly what it does.

I would have preferred a different director, but Marshall's choreography is quite good.

My biggest fear entering the theatre (that an old fashioned musical would lose something in a sparse setting) was unfounded. The sets suggested just enough of the many locales. It was actually refreshing to see that production values took backseat to the talent and the material.

It was also a joy to hear Bernstein's score played by a 20+ orchestra!
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Broadwaylady
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/03
re: re: Wonderful Town#2
Posted: 11/24/03 at 1:57pm
I am buying tixs next month. I cannot wait to see it.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by moments that take our breath away." "Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."
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Auggie27
Broadway Legend
joined:10/13/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
10/13/03
A dissenting opinion: Just an OKAY TOWN#3
Posted: 12/8/03 at 9:13am
A dissenting vote. Don't scream at me. I wanted to love it.

I just don't quite get the cheers surrounding this production--or, score aside, the show itself. The book just doesn't have a lot of laughs that hold up in 03 -- you expect Ruth to land some potent zingers, and she actually has few. You can feel the laughs NOT build. "Character" parts like the grouchy landlord and the "colorful" denizens of the village are not a barrel of laughs, and don't even work as compelling caricatures. And they so clutter the proceedings, to increasingly diminishing effect. It's not the best crafted story; the subplots that begin in act one -- the Wreck's story is set out in a helluva lot of detail --just evaporate in act two, having little or nothing to do with Ruth's denouement. And what about that? They just decide to sing an old song they knew in Ohio, and then, in half-light, Ruth gets kissed by Baker, the humorless Edleman character, and the show's over? The big revelation number -- "It's Love" is given to Baker, not Ruth. Whose story is this? (It doesn't help that wan Edleman is bland, and has zero chemistry with Murphy. If someone sees real sparks there, explain them. I couldn't believe this feisty Ruth would be taken with this man. He teaches her to "write what she knows" and she's in love? She seems desperate.)

I don't disagree that Murphy scores. But as Brantley's "superwoman," I kept wanting the show to give her more to do. She's not exactly center stage the whole evening--and per above, we have a lot of people dashing about to suggest that wild downtown NY and constantly upstage her through-line. Her comedy stuff -- acting out her cornball stories -- is like lower-rung Carol Burnette shows skits. Without Carol.

The production doesn't feel very 30s, the era it is set in. Nor does it feel very early 50s (which the music consistently suggests). It takes place in that Noman's Land called Encores. After 45 minutes, I got antsy watching the whole show played on the apron. Marshall has boxed herself in. When "Conga" happens, you want to see wild choreographric bursts all over a big stage. Instead, I felt back at City Center. The only song that truly stopped the show yesterday was "Darlin'Eileen." The audience was inordinately taken with the Riverdance shorthand. Not a good sign. And I never say this: but there was no obligatory standing o at the end. In this day and age, that at least suggests a lack of the feel-good vibe that the reviewers commented upon.

The star was the orchestra, and I loved hearing the best Berstein stuff -- "Swing" in particular. But the book that supports it just feels too warmed over to hold up the evening. When I read that there was great contentious debate among the creators -- the sentimentality of the book at odds with Bernstein' sophistication -- boy, did I get it.

I think the show's reception is in response to the current state of musical theater. I will be curious to see if word of mouth remains as positive as the reviewers POVs.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
Updated On: 12/8/03 at 09:13 AM
tpdc
Broadway Star
joined:5/30/03
Broadway Star
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5/30/03
Auggie, did you see this yesterday afternoon? I was at that performance and there was a standing ovation at the end. My Darlin Eileen was certainly a showstopper but so was 100 Easy Ways. I agree that it would have been nice for Marhsall to have gone wild with Conga. The laughs for Westfeldt did build throughout the show. I think that's one reason My Darlin Eileen scored so much. I think WONDERFUL TOWN has the same act two troubles that most 50s and 60s "hit" but not classic musicals have. But only in the resolution of the Ruth/Baker story was it a real letdown for me. That Berstein music is just thrilling heard live played by a good size orchestra. The playout music was fantastic.
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Auggie27
Broadway Legend
joined:10/13/03
Broadway Legend
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10/13/03
You raise good points tpdc. That old fashioned tidy-wrap-up/story collapse in act two is a structural liability in many shows. I admit I was nitpicking on all pts; I was very subjective. And yes, the score is just gloriously presented. That kept me going. I still wish Donna could play opposite a more interesting Baker than Edelman. I just read the Playbill piece on how he created the character--and I can't say that I see any of his homework in the performance.

You're also right -- 100 Easy Ways did stop the show. I guess I didn't see much standing, however. I was in the mezz -- a cozy, intimate one at the Beck, er, Hirshfield, and only a handful stood. But I'm the first to NOT trust a standing ovation as a barometer of anything, so I'm being a big hypocrite to hold that up as proof of anything. It's just my experience that happy houses love to leap to their feet.

"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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jrb_actor
Broadway Legend
joined:5/16/03
Broadway Legend
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5/16/03
I'm just wondering if it was a not so on performance--because normally the audiences are howling at the Hirschfeld. But, you are not alone in your feelings--I know a few who feel the same way, but I get that this is a minority (no offense meant by that).

And, you are right about the material itself---despite its awards, it was not regarded as a perfectly crafted musical. Moments of its writing are stunning, but the whole is not considered grand by many I've read. Of course, some of this is due to the tension between the book writers and composing team.

There is also a strong point in whether WT would hold up in another season--most anything well done is going to seem spectacular in this season. =)