Any Town that can boast as two of its most recent arrivals the likes of Katie Anne Clark and Jennifer Ellis must be a pretty "Wonderful Town." With its final production of the summer season, Reagle Music Theatre lives up to its solid reputation by mounting a rollicking production of the classic "Wonderful Town," featuring music by a young Leonard Bernstein. The show opened on Broadway in 1953, winning 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. This current production is directed by Broadway's David Hugo, with the usual deft Musical Direction of Dan Rodriguez.
This little gem of a show boasts a story of two sisters from Ohio who come to New York City to claim fame and fortune - Eileen Sherwood (Jennifer Ellis) as an actress and singer and Ruth Sherwood (Katie Ann Clark) as a writer. Ruth arrives with a typewriter that is missing the letter "W" because she wore it out writing a long piece about Walt Whitman! The naive sisters are hoodwinked into taking a basement flat on Christopher Street in the West Village, right above where they are blasting for the subway tunnel that will someday lead to the current Sheridan Square/Christopher Street stop on the 1 Train. The fact that the most recent resident of the flat had been a professional gal who entertained a lot of men in exchange for financial remuneration leads to some interesting visitors and complications for the sisters Sherwood. The story of their search for fortune and love is corny and wonderful. There are a host of colorful supporting players: the Greek landlord, the Italian Chef, the Irish cops, the Brazilian Navy, the handsome Editor, Robert Baker,Speedy Valenti, the nightclub owner, et al. It is the kind of menagerie one would have expected to find populating the thrumming streets of the Village in the 1930s.
The show boasts some memorable and hummable tunes - "Ohio," "Conga!" and "Swing" are among the best. Choreographer Eileen Grace has created some wonderful dance numbers, using the corps of male dancers particularly well, especially when the Brazilian Navy cannot stop dancing the Conga in every corner of NYC. Richard E. Schreiber has designed a set that recreates a down-at-the-heels Great Depression New York neighborhood, enhanced by Lighting by David Wilson and Costumes by Costume World Theatrical and Vicky Viebrooks.
There are good reasons why the names of Katie Anne Clark and Jennifer Ellis appear above the title of the show. These two stars of the Boston theater scene tower over this production the way that the Woolworth Building and the Flatiron Building would have dominated the New York skyline of the 1930s. They are hardly ever off stage in this show, and that is something for which the audience is grateful. They are gullible, lovable, believable, huggable, unstoppable and quite simply wonderful as the Sherwood sisters. Individually, they shine; together they soar. They clearly are having a wonderful time mugging their way through "Why, oh why, oh why-o, why did I leave Ohio?" Their duet on the "Wrong Note Rag" is another delight.
|Jennifer Ellis as Eileen Sherwood|
Katie Anne Clark as Ruth Sherwood
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 16
These ladies are strongly supported by a stellar cast. Among the standouts are Kevin Cirone as Robert Baker, with whom both sisters are smitten. His balad "A Quiet Girl" stands out as a highlight. David Carney as the neighbor, Wreck and Julianne Daly as his intended make a nice subplot as they try to outsmart Helen's domineering mother, Mrs. Wade (a hilariously pompous Susan Carity Conkey).. Kevin Patrick Martin is excellent as the Tour Guide in the opening production number "Christopher Street."
Come see this show. I guarantee that you will have a Wonderful Time at "Wonderful Town"!
The show runs through the end of this weekend, August 16. For tickets, check the link below:
Reagle Music Theatre Website