Donna Murphy Will Not Return to Wonderful Town Prior to Scheduled Sept. 26 Exit

News   Donna Murphy Will Not Return to Wonderful Town Prior to Scheduled Sept. 26 Exit Donna Murphy, who was scheduled to play her final performance as Ruth in the Broadway revival of Wonderful Town Sept. 26, will not return to that show to finish her run, it was formally announced.

"This experience of bringing Wonderful Town to Broadway has been one of the most exciting opportunites in my career," Murphy said in a statement. "To be blessed with this wonderful role performing the magnificent music of Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolph Green has been an actor's dream. It's a joyous show and I pass the torch with admiration and best wishes to Brooke Shields."

Brooke Shields takes over the role Sept. 28. Linda Mugleston continues in the role of Ruth Sherwood through September 26.

The press statement also stated, "Producers Roger Berlind and Barry and Fran Weissler acknowledge the wonderful contribution that Ms. Murphy made to the production and wish her much luck and best wishes in all her future endeavors."

Murphy first won solid notices for her quirky performance as the less-pretty, characterful older sister in the musical when it was revived in an Encores! concert at City Center in 2000. That staging was beefed up and brought to Broadway in fall 2003, and Murphy snagged a 2004 Tony Award nomination for her work in the spring (as did Jennifer Westfeldt as younger sister Eileen).

The critical praise and her cheery statement notwithstanding, Murphy's time inTown has not been a smooth one. She missed several previews of the show due to illness, and her attendance record has been a matter of comment in the press and within the theatrical community ever since. She has not played Ruth since Sept. 5, even while newspaper ads touted her final weeks. Shields was announced as her successor on Aug. 20. Nancy Anderson has played Eileen following Westfeldt's departure, and Jennifer Hope Wills will step into the role opposite Shields Sept. 28.

Murphy won Tony Awards for Passion and The King and I.

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Brooke Shields' Broadway credits include the revivals of Grease! and Cabaret. Wonderful Town producers Roger Berlind and Barry and Fran Weissler announced Aug. 20 that Shields would replace Murphy as Ruth Sherwood. Ruth (and aspiring writer) and her sister Eileen (an aspiring actress) are Ohio women who move to Greenwich Village in the 1930s.

The book is by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov based on their play, My Sister Eileen, which itself is based on the stories of Ruth McKenney. Music is by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

In addition to Grease! and Cabaret, Brooke Shields was seen Off-Broadway in The Vagina Monologues and The Exonerated. Her film credits include "Pretty Baby," "Endless Love," "The Weekend," "The Bachelor" and "King of the Gypsies." She won an American Comedy Award for a guest appearance on "Friends," which led to her hit series "Suddenly Susan."

Wonderful Town plays the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th Street. The production garnered a 2004 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival as well as a 2004 Tony Award for Best Choreography for Kathleen Marshall. Marshall also directed.

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The 2003 company's work has been preserved on a cast album on the DRG label.

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