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Shaw Festival 2008 – Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town

The Arts2008-7-3By: Classical Staff

by Paula Citron.
Wonderful Town
Shaw Festival
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov
Directed by Roger Hodgman
Starring Deborah Hay, Chilina Kennedy, Jay Turvey and Thom Marriot
At Shaw Festival Theatre until Oct. 5

In the past, the Shaw Festival has done terrific musicals, but Wonderful Town is not one of them.

The 1953 show is based on the short stories by Ruth McKenney which inspired the 1940 play My Sister Eileen. The plot follows the fortunes of the Sherwood sisters who come to New York from Ohio in 1935, as the gorgeous man-trap Eileen and her plainer but smarter sister Ruth try to become an actress and a writer respectively.

Thank goodness for Leonard Bernstein’s sparkling music and the clever lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolph Green which save this sluggish fare. Director Roger Hodgman’s vision is routine and Jane Johanson’s listless choreography is just plain bush league. The usually reliable William Schmuck’s sets look cheap, dark and tawdry. Judith Bowden’s costumes are marginally better.

The strong cast led by Chilina Kennedy as Eileen and Deborah Hay as Ruth are squandered in this tepid production.

Wonderful Town continues at Shaw Festival Theatre until Oct. 5.


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