Reagle Music Theater's closing show of the 47th summer season is the 1953 Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov "Wonderful Town" with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The original Broadway production won 6 Tony Awards and starred Rosalind Russell and Edie Adams as Ruth and Eileen. "Wonderful Town" was based on the 1940 play "My Sister Eileen" which in turn came from the autobiographical short stories of Ruth McKenney. Two sisters, brassy, Ruth and sweet, Eileen move from quiet Ohio to eccentric and bustling Greenwich Village in New York City in 1935. The supposedly uptight, Ruth wants to be an author and her spunky sister, Eileen wants to be an actress. They meet a lot of lovable characters along the way and just might fall "a little bit in love." We follow their adventures including Ruth's falling in love with her editor, Bob Baker, her attempted interview with Brazilian naval cadets who want to conga to Eileen's incarceration in a police cell. The show is about the love and caring these two sisters have for each other and how they make ends meet in the Big Apple. Once again director David Hugo brings out the best in his large cast with expert musical direction by Dan Rodriguez and stunning and brilliant dance numbers by choreographer Eileen Grace. Their combined expertise induces the audience to leap to their feet at the curtain call on a job very well done. All these ingredients add up to making this one of the must see shows of the summer season.
David casts these roles beautifully and obtains high quality performances from them. Dan taught the intricate and demanding Bernstein music to them and also plays lead keyboards and conducts a twenty two piece Broadway sounding orchestra especially impressive is the brass section. Eileen's dance numbers stop the show as the cast performs each and everyone of them in perfect unison. Some of the dances include jazz, square dance, Irish Jig, River dance, Conga to name a few. The sets are by Richard Schreiber while the lovely 1950's outfits are by Costume World Theatrical and Vicky Viebrooks. Katie Clark commands the stage in the role of Ruth. Her powerful voice is heard in her duets with Eileen, "Ohio" where they lament leaving their beloved state and in "Wrong Note Rag" where Eileen needs Ruth to sing with her at the nightclub because she has stage fright. This number becomes an energetic dance extravaganza. Katie also does a dynamite job on "A Hundred Ways to Lose a Man" where she says all men are repelled by her, as well as in the Conga when Ruth finally lets her hair down in the show stopping number at the end of Act 1. She and villagers also do a terrific song and dance to "Swing" with incredible jazz steps that are breathtaking. Jennifer Ellis, a gorgeous brunette wears a blonde wig as the bombshell sister, Eileen. Her fabulous soprano voice is heard in the duets with Katie as well in her solo numbers "A Little Bit in Love" where all the men in NYC are madly in love with her and in "My Darlin' Eileen" where after being arrested all the policemen think Eileen is Irish. They all perform a show stopping Irish Jig dance at the opening of Act 2. Both she and Katie are marvelous as these siblings from the 1950's. The only number that should be sped up is "Conversation Piece" at the dinner table. It needs faster pacing.
The leading man of the show is Bob Baker who is an editor that Ruth works for and eventually falls in love with him after a series of misadventures and miscommunication. He is excellently played by Kevin Cirone. He displays his powerful singing voice in "What a Waste" where he tells Ruth that she has wasted her time coming to NYC, in the haunting lovely ballad "Quiet Girl" where he contemplates what kind of woman he wants to fall in love with (my favorite number) and in "It's Love" where he finally realizes who the woman of his dreams really is. Kevin is superb as the leading man in this show. Other comic characters include Christopher King as the moralizing policeman Lonergan,Jack F. Agnew as the crusty and crafty building superintendent, Appopolous, David Carney and Julianne Daly as the unmarried couple upstairs Wreck and Helen, a football player and his gal, Doug Gerber as Chick Clark, a slimy newspaper reporter who finally obtains a job for Ruth, Dan Prior as the very clumsy, madly in love with Eileen, Walgreens druggist as well as Aaron Michael Ray as Speedy Valenti, the manager of the Village Vortex night club. Kevin Patrick Martin opens the show in a dynamic fashion as the tour guide for the tourists in the show as well as the audience members as they meet the wild and crazy folks on Christopher Street. He enters up the aisle of the theatre on to the stage. So for a marvelous musical treat from the past, be sure to catch "Wonderful Town" at Reagle Music Theatre before the Conga line leaves town. Tell them Tony sent you.