Highly Recommended ***** There is nothing like an “old fashion” musical! Back in the old days, the stories were simple, the tunes were fun and often memorable, and the over all production was designed to make sure that once the overture began, we would forget about our work, our bills, our kids and just have a good time! For those of you who miss the “good old days”, they are now back, and in full force at The Goodman Theatre. On their Albert Stage right now is Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town” with a book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. These are the people who truly made the lights burn brightly on Broadway. The story is based upon the play, “My Sister Eileen (the same writers who did this book, created that) and the stories of Ruth McKenney ( who just may be Ruth Sherwood in the play).
The story is about two sisters from Ohio, who have come to New York, one to be a writer (Ruth, played to perfection by Bri Sudia. Pay attention to this name. She is a star in the making!) and her younger sister, Eileen (the delightful Lauren Molina. Boy does she sparkle with personality), who wants to be in show biz! This is the story of the two sisters and their “mis-adventures” as they move to New York City and meet the elite and the trash that make a big city what it is. This re-tuning of the masterful piece is directed by Mary Zimmerman, who moves it to the 1950’s and with her technical staff create a set (Todd Rosenthal is brilliant) that truly makes you think “big city”, lighting (TJ Gerkens) and sound (Ray Nardelli) that keeps us into the story at all times. Unlike many a musical, we never miss a word or a beat of the amazing score and lyrics. Ana Kuzmanic’s costumes are perfect vintage for the time period. In fact, there are no flaws in this revival!
The musical direction is by Chicago favorite Doug Peck and the choreography by Alex Sanchez is very early 1950’s big-time musical. The Goodman set out to bring us something that will wipe away the recent memories of “War Paint”, and they truly succeeded with this one! “Wonderful Town” is amazing! This may be the largest ensemble that the Goodman has had on stage and most of them are very recognizable from their performances in all of the musical theaters in town. I watched on opening night as people pointed at performers who they had seen at The Mercury, The Royal George, Marriott, Drury Lane and just about every venue in town. they are all in this one-and they all do their part in making this a sure Jeff Award winner!
The leading man is Robert Baker (deftly handled by Karl Hamilton, who many will recall from his days on “The Christmas Schooner”) and the ensemble is composed of some of our town’s finest talents; Nathaniel Braga, Jordan Brown (as Wreck), Ariana Cappuccitti, Amy J. Carle, Matt DeCaro (incredible character as Appopolous), Wade Elkins, Christina Hall ( as Violet, who had the flat the girls take, before them, leaving behind all types of “rodents”), Sharriese Y. Hamilton, Aaron Holland ( I told you this is a large cast, and here I will take a breath so my editor will not go ballistic on me). The rest of the ensemble players include the glorious and very charismatic James Earl Jones II, the very funny Mark David Kaplan,Tiffany Krause, Kent M. Lewis, Jeff Parker, Jody Reynard, Todd Rhoades, Lainie Sakakura, Ian Saunders, Erica Stephan, Steven Stafford, Kristin Villanueva and last, but certainly not least, George Andrew Wolff! As mentioned, incredible talents with high energy who appear to be having as much fun doing this show as we, the audience, get from viewing. Ben Johnson conducts the orchestra and if you watch him, you know that he is in heaven with the music that he gets to play- Bernstein’s music is classic. Listen close and you might hear sounds that were used two years later in the writing of “West Side Story”.
The music in this production is, as I said earlier, the way a musical should be. An overture and even a shorter entre act’e to start the second act. “Ohio”, “Conga”, “A Little Bit In Love”, “Swing” and “It’s Love” are the songs that will make an impression, but the truth of the matter is, you will walk out of the Goodman, head towards your car, or the bus, with a smile on your face and a melody in your heart. Let’s face it! Isn’t that why one attends the musical theater? Thank you Goodman Theatre Board of Directors for giving this historical piece back to the audiences.
“Wonderful Town” will continue at The Goodman Theatre, located at 190 N. Dearborn Street, now thru October 23rd (maybe they can squeeze one more extension- I think the demand will be that great) with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 2 and 7:30 p.m. no matinee on 10/13
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 8 p.m. NO evening on October 9th
events and accessibility visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Access
Tickets range from $25-$103 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Student tix at $10 with valid ID (promo code 10TIX)
MezzTix – half day avail online only-day of show promo code MEZZTIX
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Wonderful Town”.