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A classic

'Wonderful Town' at Grange Park Opera
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


It would be no surprise to find Mary King and Sophie Daneman performing an early work by a major late twentieth century composer. After all Mary King's credentials are well known and Sophie Daneman, though much associated with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, has strong links with music by Schoenberg and Berg.

But when the composer in question is Leonard Bernstein and the work is the musical Wonderful Town, then eyebrows might be raised. Grange Park Opera have followed up their 2002 production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes with a striking version of Bernstein's 1953 musical Wonderful Town, designed and directed by Anthony McDonald.

Bernstein's musical, with its catchy score and witty lyrics by Comden and Green, is a classic even if it is not quite in the league of West Side Story. Based on autobiographical stories by Ruth McKenney in the New Yorker in the 1930s, it tells the tale of two sisters from Ohio, Ruth Sherwood (Mary King) and Eileen Sherwood (Sophie Danemen) and their attempts to make it in New York, but one of the biggest characters is New York, the wonderful town itself.

From left to right, Ensemble and Ruth (Mary King) in Grange Park Opera's 'Wonderful Town'. Photo © 2004 Alastair Muir
From left to right, Ensemble and Ruth (Mary King) in Grange Park Opera's 'Wonderful Town'. Photo © 2004 Alastair Muir

McDonald, known as a designer for his collaboration with Richard Jones on the striking La Bohème and Un Ballo in Maschera on the lake in Bregenz, has come up with a striking, flexible single set in which skyscrapers frame the sky and he has filled it with a sassy, confident production. Fielding a large cast of singers, actors and dancers, McDonald and his choreographer, Philippe Gireaudeau, create some lively stage pictures notably in the many instrumental interludes and the dance sequence, 'Conquering New York'.

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Copyright © 4 July 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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