Review: Wonderful Town

The lights dimmed, the band broke out wave after wave of vibrant jazz notes and the setting for Wonderful Town was in place.

1950s New York, Greenwich Village: home of artists, writers, actors and singers desperately trying to make their big break. Ruth and Eileen Sherwood arrive from Ohio to seek their fame and fortune, but after being pushed into a poky basement apartment and with no luck finding work, the two find themselves down and out, struggling to find love and employment.

Bursting at the seams with characters so rich and varied that at times you didn’t know where to look first, the cast proved the words of the show’s very first song right – interesting people definitely do live on Christopher Street.

Despite previous problems with her voice, Connie Fisher excelled as Ruth Sherwood. Fisher’s brilliant portrayal of the headstrong heroine, determined to become a newspaper writer, showcased her ability as both an actor and singer. Her voice may not have been as strong in places as that of her co-star Lucy Van Gasse, yet she still managed to fill the auditorium with her pitch-perfect notes.

There were times however, when the acting and presence of the rest of the ensemble flagged, giving the leading actors room to fill the stage. There felt the need for director Braham Murray to add more meat to the bones of the characters, to make the scenes they shared with the leads more believable. That being said however, the ensemble performances in some parts could not have been better: who doesn’t love a musical number with a dozen Irish policemen serenading a beautiful blonde jailbird?

Andrew Wright’s choreography was sleek and sassy, perfectly capturing the essence of the 1950s as the cast swayed and conga-lined their way through some very imaginative dance numbers. It was such a treat for the eye that you almost didn’t want to blink in case you missed a step. With Simon Higlett’s bright set and costume design adding a splash of colour, those high-kicking, skirt-flipping scenes captured the fun, light-hearted nature of the show.

Wonderful Town gave the audience an evening of unforgettable entertainment, ensuring that everyone left with a huge grin on their faces and a show tune or two stuck in their heads for weeks to come.

8/10

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