Los Angeles Theater Preview: WONDERFUL TOWN (Los Angeles Opera)

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by Tony Frankel on November 28, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


Never heard of the 1953 musical, Wonderful Town? Well, certainly you’ve heard of composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Even though the songs are terrific, none of them have entered the hit parade. Bernstein offers catchy melodies in tunes that range from conga to an Irish jig, and the lyrics are fresh and remarkably witty. With a 2003 Broadway revival and a Mary Zimmerman-directed production at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre this year, this once overlooked musical is gaining traction. Now, LA Opera is offering three semi-staged concert performances, taking place at at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from December 2 through 4, 2016.

Unlike so many staged-concert versions of musicals, this one will have a ginormous orchestra under the baton of LA Opera’s Resident Conductor Grant Gershon. David Lee, who did a fantastic job with Jerry Herman’s Dear World at VPAC, directs, and the great Peggy Hickey (Kiss Me, Kate, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) choreographs.


Nikki M. James, Tony winner for The Book of Mormon, is Eileen Sherwood and the great Faith Prince plays sister Ruth Sherwood. Also on board are Broadway stars Marc Kudisch (Robert Baker), Roger Bart (narrator and other roles) and Ben Crawford (Wreck). Tony Abatemarco plays Mr. Appopolous, landlord to the Sherwood sisters. Also featured are several members of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program: Elizabeth Zharoff (Violet), Brian Michael Moore (Officer Lonigan), Theo Hoffman (First Editor, Cop) Carlos Enrique Santelli (Cop) and Josh Wheeker (Cop).


Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov’s libretto is based on their 1940 play My Sister Eileen, which was adapted from Ruth McKenney’s short stories about her experiences growing up in Ohio and moving to New York with her sister. The musical capitalizes on just a few of her tales, centering on the girls’ beginnings in a basement Greenwich Village apartment, surrounded by the kooky characters that reside in this bohemian enclave. It’s essentially plot-free, but a series of silly misadventures with a heart ain’t bad when it contains some bright music (which Bernstein composed in just under five weeks). Ruth is a wannabe writer whose smarts keep her from catching a man. Eileen is a good-looking and naïve performer who attracts most every man she meets, including a newspaper man, a five and dime manager, and an Irish cop. The Big Apple takes a bite out of the sisters, but they learn about love and humility along the way.

Wonderful Town kicks off LA Opera’s three-season celebration leading up to Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday in 2018.

photos courtesy LA Opera

Wonderful Town
LA Opera
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 North Grand Ave
Friday, December 2, 2016, at 8
Saturday, December 3, 2016, at 8
Sunday, December 4, 2016, at 2
for tickets, call 213.972.8001 or visit LA Opera

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