I just got back from…well, I’ll tell you on Monday. I promise you’ll be interested. At least I think you’ll be interested. (And no, it wasn’t Baghdad.)
In my absence, The Wall Street Journal ran my review of the new Broadway revival of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town, which opened last Sunday. Since there’s no link, and I expect most of you were elsewhere on Friday and thus didn’t get a chance to see what I wrote, here it is:
Let’s cut right to the chase: “Wonderful Town” is now the go-to show on Broadway. Donna Murphy and Jennifer Westfeldt are the best of all possible stars. Kathleen Marshall’s dance-filled direction is picture-perfect. As for the songs, they’re by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green–need I say more? If a visit to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre doesn’t make you feel sunny all over, you need to consider switching to an industrial-strength anti-depressant.
The only thing I can’t figure is why it took a half-century for “Wonderful Town,” which opened this week, to receive its first full-scale Broadway revival. The legend of New York City, after all, is as potent today as it was in 1953. This is still the place where gifted folk from every small town on earth come to find their futures, and “Wonderful Town” is the quintessential expression of their quest. Based on “My Sister Eileen,” the Jerome Chodorov-Joseph Fields play loosely adapted from the autobiographical short stories of Ruth McKenney, “Wonderful Town” tells the tale of Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, two adventurous sisters from Ohio who burn their bridges, find a basement apartment in Greenwich Village and find out that Manhattan really is all it’s cracked up to be.
Simplicity is the keynote of this wonderful “Wonderful Town”: John Lee Beatty’s set is a see-through skein of skyscrapers and fire escapes, with an occasional backdrop flown in to orient the viewer. If you think a Broadway musical absolutely has to be financed by tapping the Federal Reserve, you may find the effect sparse, but for me it was just right. In reviewing the gazillion-dollar “Wicked” (which I liked), I suggested that it was really “a mini-musical