Broadway Musical Cast / Donna Murphy / Brooke Shields

Wonderful Town (New Broadway Cast Recording)

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Wonderful Town, the musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green based on the play My Sister Eileen and the stories of Ruth McKenney about two sisters from Ohio who move to New York City in the 1930s, had a healthy run of 559 performances when it opened on Broadway in 1953. Despite that success, it did not generate a major Broadway revival for 50 years. There were four limited-engagement versions over the years, however, one by the New York City Opera and three by the City Center organization. So, it was appropriate that in 2000 City Center also put Wonderful Town in its Encores! series of concert renditions of vintage shows worthy of a second look. It took producers Roger Berlind and Barry and Fran Weissler three years, but they finally put a more staged version of that production on Broadway proper, starting on November 23, 2003, with two-time Tony Award winner Donna Murphy (Passion, the 1996 revival of The King and I) in the starring role of Ruth Sherwood, the brainy sister, with Jennifer Westfeldt, best known for the 2001 film Kissing Jessica Stein, making her Broadway debut as the beautiful sister Eileen. The part of Ruth was written for Rosalind Russell, and since Russell wasn't much of a singer, her numbers were given a narrow range. But since she was a larger-than-life actress-comedienne, the part was given lots of comic material. Murphy, in contrast, is a very good singer, but not nearly the personality that Russell was. You might say that the result is classic miscasting, but what it really means is that her interpretation is necessarily very different. She subsumes herself to the role and even invents new voices and characters for such story songs as "One Hundred Easy Ways," playing very broadly. Westfeldt has less to do, but also manages some good comic effects in her more sincere role. The cast album in the CD era has more space to include Bernstein instrumental dance music like "Conquering New York," and while a lot is lost without the on-stage choreography, greater attention is focused on the impressive score. Russell (who recorded the show twice) is still the definitive Ruth, but Murphy has worked hard, to good effect. (These days, it seems, even a new recording has to have "bonus tracks," and here they are a couple of recordings of the show's songs by Comden and Green made in the '50s and previously released.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Wonderful Town, musical in 2 acts
1 4:38
2
feat: Ken Barnett
5:28
3 3:28
4 4:15
5 3:27
6 3:13
7 2:43
8 4:24
9 4:06
10 3:21
11 3:47
12 3:13
13 5:25
14 2:13
15 3:00
16 2:51
17 2:40
18 1:39
19 3:53
20 1:52
blue highlight denotes track pick