Wonderful Town

Wonderful Town

Infobox Musical
name= Wonderful Town

caption= 2003 Revival Logo
music= Leonard Bernstein
lyrics= Betty Comden
Adolph Green
book= Joseph A. Fields
Jerome Chodorov
basis= Joseph A. Fields's and Jerome Chodorov's play "My Sister Eileen"
productions= 1953 Broadway
1958 U.S. Television
1986 West End
2003 Broadway revival
2006 Non-Equity U.S. Tour
awards= Tony Award for Best Musical

"Wonderful Town" is a musical with a book written by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Leonard Bernstein. It is based on Fields and Chodorov's 1940 play "My Sister Eileen", which is itself based on the collection of short stories by Ruth McKenney of the same name.

Premiering on Broadway in 1953, "Wonderful Town" won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and spawned a 1986 West End production and 2003 Broadway revival. A lighter piece than Bernstein's later works, "West Side Story" and "Candide", Comden and Green's lyrics are paired with Bernstein's music to produce some of the most popular songs of the 1950s.

The musical follows the story of sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, who travel to New York City from Columbus, Ohio in search of love and fortune. "My Sister Eileen", the collection of short stories on which the play and musical are based, recounts Ruth's memories of growing up with her sister. The collection was published as a hardcover book in 1938, three years after the events depicted in the musical. Only the final two stories in the book have anything to do with the plot of "Wonderful Town", and they are heavily modified for the musical. The stories also served as the basis of two films and a television series.

Production history

"Wonderful Town" debuted on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on February 25, 1953 and ran for 559 performances, closing on July 3, 1954 and starred Rosalind Russell and Edith Adams, wife of Ernie Kovacs. It was directed by George Abbott, choreographed by Donald Saddler and produced by Robert Fryer.

The show was broadcast live as a television special on CBS in 1958, starring Russell.

A production opened in the West End at the Queen's Theatre in August 1986 and closed in March 1987, after playing at the Watford Palace, with Maureen Lipman (Ruth) and Emily Morgan (Eileen).

A revival opened on on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on November 23, 2003 and closed on January 30, 2005, after 497 performances. With direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall, it starred Donna Murphy, and later Brooke Shields. The production was based on the 2000 Encores! production.

A non-Equity national tour was mounted by Music Theatre Associates in 2006 and 2007, starring Deborah Lynn as Ruth and Allison Berry as Eileen. The Canadian premiere opened May 25, 2008 at the Shaw Festival in Niagara On The Lake.


;Act I During the summer of 1935 in Greenwich Village, New York, a tour guide leads a group of sightseers on a tour of "Christopher Street" and its colorful citizens. When the tourists have departed, the witty Ruth Sherwood arrives with her pretty younger sister Eileen. The two have just arrived from Ohio determined to forge a life in the big city as a writer (Ruth) and an actress (Eileen). Soon they are living in a basement apartment, recently vacated by a local prostitute Violet, loaned by the "loveable" landlord, Mr. Appopolous and shaken frequently by dynamite from the construction of a subway underneath them and Violet's returning customers. The sisters are soon stricken with homesickness for "Ohio". The next morning, Ruth and Eileen set out to try their hand at "Conquering New York", only to find defeat and humiliation. Eileen, at least, has met Frank Lippencott, a local Walgreen's manager who has developed a crush on her. Ruth, however, is left to wonder at her sister's magnetic appeal and her own unique romantic abilities; a talent for repelling men so successful that she could write a book entitled "One Hundred Easy Ways" to lose a man. Eventually, Ruth talks her way into the offices of a short story magazine, where she meets Bob Baker. Bob likes Ruth, but advises her that she has little chance of success, and tells her flat out "What A Waste" of money and time it was to come to New York. Undaunted, Ruth leaves three stories with Bob in the hope that he will read them. Meanwhile, Eileen has been eating all of her lunches (free, naturally), at Walgreen's, and finds herself "A Little Bit In Love" with Frank. Bob arrives at the apartment to talk to Ruth, and Eileen invites him to dinner. The upstairs neighbors, Wreck, an out-of-season American football player, and his live-in lover, Helen, ask the girls to hide Wreck while Helen's mother Mrs. Wade is in town. Eileen happily agrees to stow him in their apartment. Wreck describes his lucky history as a student at Trenton Tech, who got by on his ability to "Pass The Football". Eileen has invited Frank Lippencott, Bob Baker, and Chick Clark, a slimy newspaper scribe who she has met with the object of furthering Ruth's career, over for potluck supper. Unaware of each other's feelings, both girls find themselves attracted to Bob. Soon all five of them are seated around the cramped apartment trying to fill the awkward silence, in "Conversation Piece". Meanwhile Helen deals with her overbearing mother. Ruth and Bob talk over the quality of her stories, and he advises her to write about what she knows rather than flights of fancy. Both say several wrong things, and he finally tells her off. He soon regrets it as Ruth rushes inside in tears, and Bob is left to sing of his inability to find "A Quiet Girl" to love. Anxious to be alone with Eileen, Chick Clark creates a bogus assignment for Ruth. He sends her off to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to interview a group of Brazilian sailors. She quickly realizes that their sole interest is to learn the "Conga". The sailors follow Ruth home, where the girls soon find themselves in chaotic confusion, as all the citizens of Christopher Street join the conga line. Ruth runs into Bob and gives him a piece of her mind, while Eileen is hauled off to jail for causing the riot. ;Act IIIn the local jail Eileen finds herself practically running the place, with Officer Lonigan and his brigade of doting Irish police officers at her beck and call. Given her name, they are convinced that she is Irish, and they serenade her with "My Darlin' Eileen". Ruth comes to assure her that she will bail her out as soon as she collects the money from her new job as a promoter for the Village Vortex, a local nightclub. At the club, Ruth "digs the rhythm" of "Swing". Meanwhile, Wreck is masquerading as a wealthy art collector to meet Helen's mother's approval, and Chick is frantically calling Eileen, trying to make things right.

Thanks to Bob, Eileen is soon released from jail, and the sisters learn that Appopolous has been so scandalized by Eileen's arrest, he has threatened to evict them. Eileen discovers that Ruth is also attracted to Bob Baker, and the two of them wish, for a moment, that they had never left home, reprising "Ohio". Eileen is then confronted by the rhythmical Speedy Valenti, owner of the Village Vortex, who gives her her New York debut as a singer. Appopolous immediately changes his tune now that one of his tenants has a paying job, and extends their lease. Eileen soon learns that Bob Baker has quit his job as a result of a disagreement with his boss about Ruth's story on the Brazilian sailors. Eileen is thrilled that Bob quit his job and assures the unbelieving Bob that "It's Love" that he feels for Ruth. Bob, faced with the facts, realizes the truth: it "is" love.

The mood at the Vortex turns jazzy with the "Ballet At The Village Vortex". Eileen finds herself with a case of stage fright and she convinces Ruth to join her on stage to sing the "Wrong Note Rag". Chick arrives to make amends and presents Ruth with a press pass: his boss has read her story about the Brazilian Sailors and loved it, and given Ruth a job. The Vortex is alive with singing and dancing, and Bob decides it's the perfect moment to let Ruth know how he feels. The curtain closes as Eileen and the guests at the club sing "It's Love" in celebration of Ruth and Bob's newfound affection.

Musical Numbers

;Act I
* Overture
* Christopher Street--Tour Guide and The Villagers
* Ohio--Ruth Sherwood and Eileen Sherwood
* Conquering New York--Ruth, Eileen, First Cadet, Violet and The Villagers*
* One Hundred Easy Ways--Ruth
* What A Waste--Robert Baker and Associate Editors
* A Little Bit in Love--Eileen
* Pass the Football--Wreck and The Villagers
* Conversation Piece--Ruth, Eileen, Frank Lippencott, Robert and Chick Clark*
* A Quiet Girl--Robert
* Conga--Ruth ;Act II
* My Darlin' Eileen--Eileen, Drunk and Policeman
* Swing--Ruth and Villagers
* Ohio (Reprise)--Ruth and Eileen
* It's Love--Robert and The Villagers
* Ballet at the Village Vortex
* Wrong Note Rag--Ruth, Eileen and The Villagers
* It's Love (Reprise)
* *"Conquering New York" and "Conversation Piece" both quote Bernstein's solo clarinet piece "Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs" premiered by Benny Goodman in 1955.


;Original Broadway Cast (1953)
*Ruth Sherwood -- Rosalind Russell
*Eileen Sherwood -- Edith Adams
*Robert (Bob) Baker -- George Gaynes
*Wreck -- Jordan Bentley
*Frank Lippencott -- Cris Alexander
*Appopolous -- Henry Lascoe
*Speedy Valenti -- Ted Beniades
*Helen -- Michele Burke;Revival Broadway Cast (2003)
*Ruth Sherwood -- Donna Murphy
*Eileen Sherwood -- Jennifer Westfeldt
*Robert (Bob) Baker -- Gregg Edelman
*Wreck -- Raymond Jaramillo McLeod
*Frank Lippencott -- Peter Benson
*Appopolous -- David Margulies
*Speedy Valenti -- Stanley Wayne Mathis
*Helen -- Nancy Anderson;1st National Touring Cast (2006)
*Ruth Sherwood -- Deborah Lynn
*Eileen Sherwood -- Allison Berry
*Robert (Bob) Baker -- Matthew Sean Callahan
*Wreck -- Rockford Sansom
*Frank Lippencott -- Trey Mitchell
*Appopolous -- Saum Eskandani
*Speedy Valenti -- Will Mann
*Helen -- Sarah Roussos


Though there have been only two major Broadway productions of "Wonderful Town", many recordings of the music have been made over the years.

*1953: The Original Broadway Cast with Rosalind Russell as Ruth. A 2001 CD re-issue also contained selections from "On the Town," another Bernstein musical.
*1958: The CBS TV Movie Cast with Rosalind Russell as Ruth.
*1986: The Original London Cast with Maureen Lipman as Ruth.
*1998: A Studio Ensemble with Karen Mason as Ruth. The first complete recording of the score.
*1999: A Studio Ensemble with Kim Criswell as Ruth and Audra McDonald as Eileen, Thomas Hampson, and Rodney Gilfry, and conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
*2002: A live performance in Berlin on DVD with Kim Criswell as Ruth and Audra McDonald as Eileen, and with Thomas Hampson and Wayne Marshall, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
*2003: The New Broadway Cast with Donna Murphy and Jennifer Westfeldt as Ruth and Eileen, respectively.
*2004: A rerelease of The New Broadway Cast with Brooke Shields and Jennifer Hope Wills as Ruth and Eileen, respectively. For this recording, the original orchestral tracks from the New Broadway recording were used, and only Ruth and Eileen's songs were rerecorded.

Awards and nominations

;Original Broadway production
*Tony Awards
*Best Musical (WINNER)
*Best Actress -- Rosalind Russell (WINNER)
*Best Scenic Design -- Raoul Pène Du Bois (WINNER)
*Best Choreographer -- Donald Saddler (WINNER)
*Best Conductor and Musical Director -- Lehman Engel (WINNER)
*Theatre World Award -- Edith Adams

;2003 Broadway revival
*Tony Awards
*Best Choreography -- Kathleen Marshall (WINNER)
*Best Revival of a Musical (nominee)
*Best Actress in a Musical -- Donna Murphy (nominee)
*Best Featured Actress in a Musical -- Jennifer Westfeldt (nominee)
*Best Direction of a Musical -- Kathleen Marshall (nominee)
*Theatre World Award -- Jennifer Westfeldt
*Drama Desk Awards
*Outstanding Revival of a Musical (nominee)
*Outstanding Actress in a Musical -- Donna Murphy (WINNER)
*Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical -- Raymond Jaramillo McLeod (nominee)
*Outstanding Choreography -- Kathleen Marshall (WINNER)
*Outstanding Director of a Musical -- Kathleen Marshall (nominee)
*Outstanding Set Design of a Musical -- John Lee Beatty (nominee)

External links

* [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=2221 Internet Broadway Database for 1953 production]
* [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=13560 Internet Broadway Database for 2003 production]
*imdb title|id=0289629|title=Wonderful Town (1958 TV film)


* [http://theater2.nytimes.com/mem/theater/treview.html?_r=1&res=9E06EEDE1438F935A35756C0A9669C8B63&oref=slogin NY Times review of the 2000 Encores! production]
* [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_w/wonderful_town.htm Profile of the show from the NODA website]
* [http://www.leonardbernstein.com/comdenandgreen/wt.asp Information about the show]
* [http://www.tams-witmark.com/musicals/wonderful.html Profile of the show from the Tams Witmark website]
* [http://www.leonardbernstein.com/studio/element2.asp?FeatID=47&AssetID=24 Background from the Leonard Bernstein website]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,818054-1,00.html Time Magazine article about Russell and the show]

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