On Sept. 22, The New York Times reported that one of the likely candidates to fill the vacant Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway is Wonderful Town, the Leonard Bernstein-Adolph Green-Betty Comden musical that was done last May by musicals-in-concert series Encores!. The City Center production opened to some of the best reviews Encores! has seen in some time, with particular praise being doled out for star Donna Murphy.
The chances of Town reaching Broadway anytime soon, however, look iffy. Barry Weissler -- who, with his wife and producing partner Fran, is behind the project -- would not comment on the show, which he said was in development. Asked if it was unlikely that the musical would reach the Ford Center anytime soon, he also declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Donna Murphy is apparently involved in a new television series starring Joan Cusack. Her involvement in Wonderful Town would appear to be pivotal. Murphy, who played Ruth, has appeared on Broadway in Passion and The King and I, winning Tonys for both performances.
At the 2000 Tony Awards Nominees luncheon, Laura Benanti -- another Wonderful Town star and a Tony nominee for Swing! -- confirmed that there was interest in Town and that she would be love to repeat her performance as Eileen if asked. "Doing that show affirmed everything about why I am doing musical theatre," she said. Benanti's contract at Swing! expires in November.
Also in the Encores! cast were Richard Muenz, David Aaron Baker, Lewis J. Stadlen (Mizlansky/Zilinsky), Gregory Jbara (Victor/Victoria), Becky Ann Baker (Titanic), Alix Korey (The Wild Party), Raymond Jaramillo McLeod, Stephen DeRosa (Do Re Mi), Patrick Quinn, Ray Wills, Jenny Hill and Steve Ryan (Guys and Dolls). Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed. Marshall is the artistic director of the Encores! Series. Her handiwork has been seen last season in Stephen Sondheim's Saturday Night and the revival of Kiss Me, Kate. David Ives, who has found a second career adapting old musical books for Encores!, did so again with Town.
Wonderful Town has never had a major Broadway revival. The story brings characters from My Sister Eileen back to life. The parade of Greenwich Village life in the 1930s includes such songs as "Conga!," "Ohio," "Christopher Street," "My Darlin' Eileen," "A Quiet Girl," "What a Waste" and "Wrong Note Rag." Rosalind Russell starred as big sister Ruth in both the original and in a TV version. Both versions are on CD, as are others: A London revival, a studio-cast recording of the entire score (on the Jay label) and yet another recent studio-cast recording conducted by Simon Rattle (on the EMI Classics label), with Audra McDonald as little sister Eileen.
The score is famous for being written in only a few months, in order to fit star Russell's schedule.
The current Broadway revival of Chicago began as an Encores! concert. So far, it is the only Encores! show to transfer to Broadway.