Though 1953's Wonderful Town is perhaps best remembered for Leonard Bernstein's score, a pastiche of 1930s popular music, it was written as a star vehicle for Rosalind Russell, who had starred in the non-musical film based on the same material, 1942's My Sister Eileen. Russell was a non-singer with a range of three notes, and the composer wrote accordingly, though other performers had rangier songs. Nevertheless, Russell dominated the show, staying with it for most of its run and re-creating her performance in a 1958 television version that, like the Broadway production, was recorded for a cast album. Until 1986, that was it, two cast albums, both featuring Russell. The biggest challenge for the 1986 London revival, then, was to find a star to measure up to her, and a second challenge was to authentically portray a very American, and particularly New York, show. As demonstrated on this cast album, the production managed one out of two. Maureen Lipman, in the starring role of Ruth, is excellent, rambunctiously handling such patter songs as "One Hundred Ways to Lose a Man" and "Conga." The rest of the cast, however, has a lot more trouble with its American accents, especially Michael Fitzpatrick and male lead Ray Lonnen. As a result, this Wonderful Town has more of a cartoonish tone and lacks the bite of the original. Too bad Lipman couldn't be lifted out and put in a better overall version.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Maureen Lipman
feat: Emily Morgan
feat: Ray Lonnen