Wonderful Town - a feast of music, dance and performance at Wales Millennium Centre (From Hereford Times)
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Wonderful Town - a feast of music, dance and performance at Wales Millennium Centre
Despite being penned 30 years before she was born Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town could have been written with Connie Fisher in mind.
The latest revival currently touring the UK and showing at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff has class written right through it, with pitch-perfect casting that brings this urban fairytale to life.
Wonderful Town is nominally set in 1930s Jazz age Greenwich Village, New York, but with distinct nods to the swing era, rock ‘n’roll and the Beat movement which gives it a timeless edge.
It’s the familiar story of innocent girls making their way in the big bold city. A tale of boy meets girl, boy hates girl but is finally won over by girl that is the theme running through a million romantic comedies. What sets this one apart is the stunning score by the masterful Bernstein, the man who wrote’ jazz for the concert hall and symphonies for the Broadway stage’.
Every song, every line, every note is perfect, nothing is wasted or extravagant yet adds up to a sumptuous feast of colour, music, dance and performance.
As well as Fisher, best known as the winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, who extracts every nuance of wit and wisdom from wannabee journalist Ruth Sherwood, Lucy Van Grasse simply epitomises her beautiful and flirtatious sibling Eileen. The chemistry between the two is tangible with Van Grasse’s operatic soprano blending beautifully with Fisher’s now recovered powerhouse vocals.
Beautifully set with an uncluttered but effective stage and costumes the show rattles along to a glitzy finale set in the Village Vantage nightspot.
While essentially to story of Ruth – the home town girl made good – the secondary characters, particularly the Wreck (Nic Greenshields) and Helen (Tiffany Graves) together with love interest Bob Baker (Michael Xavier), who was refreshingly wholesome for an on-stage journalist when contrasted to the stereotypic sleazy reporter Chick Clark (Joseph Alessi), had stories to tell and solid performances to put in.
Possibly because it has an ageless quality thanks to its subject matter and musical range Wonderful Town is a kind of Every-Play – appealing the lovers of serious music and well as the musicals, comedy and tragedy and modern and classical dance. There’s even a nod to contemporary celtic culture with a wonderfully funny homage to Riverdance during the song Eileen.
As an antidote to the dreadful summer Wonderful Town is a winner.
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