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Wonderful Town

Music by Leonard Bernstein

The Lowry, 5 April 2012

Wonderful Town

It is impossible to recommend this show highly enough: it rates 10 out of 10 with ease.

The story concerns two sisters, newly arrived from Ohio and aiming to make it big in the Big Apple.  One is an actress, the other’s a writer.  They find digs in Greenwich Village and encounter a bunch of city eccentrics, including an artistically inclined landlord and a wolfish reporter, before finding true love and professional advancement.

What’s sensational about the show is how the stage is piled high always with colour and incident: fast-moving and high-kicking dance, gorgeous costumes and sets, generous helpings of humour, songs wildly different in character, switching the mood suddenly from slow and moving (A Quiet Girl) to frenetic and exciting (Conga!) to raucous and crazy (My Darlin’ Eileen).

Bernstein’s jaunty and cheery score sets you up perfectly for a Runyonesque yarn of big-city life.  All the leads deliver terrific performances, and among the ensemble cast Frankie Jenna caught the eye (or my eye at least) – and that on more than one occasion.  And a live orchestra, particularly one as consummately accomplished as the Halle, makes all the difference in the world to a show like this.  Bernstein’s music, just like Gershwin’s, needs to be played live.

Yeah, the great big city is a wondrous toy.  And this is a wondrous production of a feel-good, musical comedy that came just four years before the tragedy of West Side Story.  It’s at The Lowry until 21 April then tours the UK until July, details here and here.  Do not miss it.