Arts & Entertainment

Wonderful Town

Virginia Gay and Georgina Walker in Wonderful Town.

Ruth Sherwood, a witty writer from Ohio, arrives in New York City with her younger sister, an aspiring actress. From their basement apartment in the downtrodden part of town, these women are determined to pursue their careers and wildest dreams, and they don’t have time for men or love to hold them back.

This plot may seem lifted from the latest watered down TV show pilot, but this is the story behind Wonderful Town, Leonard Bernstein’s award-winning (albeit forgotten) 1953 musical.

To revive this musical The Sydney Philharmonic Choir and Squabbalogic have again combined forces. In the surrounds of the Opera House Concert Hall, the enigmatic cast of eight will be engulfed by a 300 strong choir and a 55-seat orchestra.

Stage and TV star Virginia Gay and rising star Georgina Walker will be bringing the story’s heroines back to life.

We caught up with director Jason Langley as preparations for this production’s extremely limited run were gaining momentum.

“It’s a relatively unknown show in Australia because Leonard Bernstein wrote it in between his hit show[s] On The Town and…West Side Story… I think it kind of got lost in Bernstein’s musical cannon,” Jason explained.

“It seems to me to be quite progressive for the time it was written in… These female characters don’t exist for the men in the show, it’s quite the other way around,” he elaborated.

“I think it’s got such strong feminist undertones because the original source material were these short stories published in The New Yorker Magazine by a journalist called Ruth McKenney, and she wrote them about she and her sister Eileen’s exploits… and the colourful characters they met along the way in trying to find their careers in New York…”

McKenney’s stories could indeed be considered a predecessor to modern sitcoms of the likes of Sex and the City, Girls or Broad City. Combined with the drawcard of Bernstein’s unmatched composition and the sheer talent of the choir, orchestra and cast – this special production is a guaranteed to be an enriching experience. (AM)

Two shows only: May 7–8 (8pm + 2pm). Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House. $49-$109+bf. Tickets & info: or 02 9251 3115

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