Wonderful Town

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Book by Joseph A. Fields andwonder10

Jerome Chodorov.

Music by Leonard Bernstein.

Lyrics by Betty Comden and

Adolph Green.

Based on the play My Sister Eileen

by Joseph A. Fields & Jerome Chodorov.

From the stories by Ruth McKenney.

Directed by Mary Zimmerman.

Choreographed by Alex Sanchez.

Music Direction by Doug Peck.

At the Goodman Theatre. Chicago.

Wonderful score by Leonard Bernstein with clever lyrics by Comden & Green with whip-smart direction by Mary Zimmerman and sensational choreography by Alex Sanchez add up to one of the finest Broadway  musical comedy to hit a Chicago stage in years!

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Mary Zimmerman’s genius  for staging  and set design use grabs audiences from the start catapulting them back to New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1950’s that was an enclave of artists, poets and composers and writers.  Using Todd Rosenthals colorfully stunning set design inspired by a graphic illustration by Steven Duncan, Zimmerman ekes all the comedy from Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov’s book and from Betty Comden and Adolph Green  hysterical lyrics with many of those precious little Zimmerman additions that garner laughs. Her staging is manic, fun, and breathtaking!. From the opening ensemble number, we get the feeling  that Wonderful Town will be funny, heartfelt and hopeful as we experience NYC in the 1950’s.  I can’t remember a finer musical comedy opening number that sets the audience’s expectations better!

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Based on Ruth McKenney’s stories that became the play My Sister Eileen, Wonderful Town chronicles the adventures of two just out of school 20something sisters who arrive in Greenwich Village for rural Ohio.  Ruth Sherwood (the comic genius Bri Sudia), aspirating writer and her sister Eileen Sherwood (Lauren  Molina) a blond beauty aspiring actress, arrive in the Big Apple in search of life’s adventures. They are naively hopeful and trusting folks.

Leonard Bernstein’s  eclectic score is a swing/jazz one filled with cute novelty tunes.  rags,  ballads, bouncy anthems and Latin beats (such as “Conga”) plus sweet tune like “Ohio” and “It’s Love” with wonders such as “My Darlin’ Eileen” and clever tongue-twisters like “One Hundred Easy Ways.”

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The dedicated cast of 26 players each had their funny moments especially with Zimmerman’s smart staging and movements. Alex Sanchez’s varied choreographed deftly danced the score with verve. This ambitious choreography landed the comic or emotional requirements of the tunes with energy and cleverness. Wonderful Town has a sophisticated choreographed musical that works to add to the joy of this glorious fun show.

As usual with a Mary Zimmerman show, the cast is filled with a rich assortment of Equity talents determined to garner all the fun and comedy from this delightful show. Jordan Brown as Wreck and Matt DecCaro as Appopolous and George Andrew Wolff  as  Officer Lonigan with Kristin Villanueva as Helen and Amy J. Carle as Mrs. Wade each made major contributions to this zany show!

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But to me, three players make Wonderful Town work. Karl Hamilton, as Robert Brown, the editor, acted and sang richly in numbers like “What A Waste,” “A Quiet Girl” and “It’s Love.” Hamilton’s vocals were outstanding. And, of course, Bri Sudia, a Ruth and Lauren Molina were the lovable sisters who never lost their hope that NYC would be their place for success. These two are triple threats: they can sing, do comedy and dance deftly! I especially enjoyed and I was impressed with the show stopping comic bent from Bri Sudia.

Wonderful Town, from 1953 won five Tony’s including Best Musical. It was revived in 2004 on Broadway. It is a mystery why Drury Lane Theatre and Marriott Theatre have never done Wonderful Town? It could be because of the large cast? Kudos to the Goodman Theatre for  mounting this classic Broadway musical comedy gem, Wonderful Town is one of the best shows of 2016 mounted in Chicago. Don’t miss this ‘wonderful’ show.

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Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: September 18, 2016.

For more info checkout the Wonderful Town page at theatreinchicago.com.

At the Goodman Theatre. 170 N. Dearborn, chic ago, IL call 31-443-3800, www.goodmantheatre.org, tickets from $25 and up,  Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 2 &7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2hours, 30  minutes with intermission, through October 23, 2016.

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