Talkin' Broadway V.J.

Wonderful Town

EMI Classics released a gorgeous new studio recording to Leonard Bernstein's "lost masterpiece": Wonderful Town. Featuring the titanic talents of Broadway's current darling, 3-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, as well as the West End favorite Kim Criswell and the celebrated opera baritone Thomas Hampson, this complete recording offers an amazing glimpse into the mind of one of the 20th century's great composers. The recording also features the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the London Voices all under the direction of celebrated conductor Sir Simon Rattle, making for gorgeous orchestration to back the extraordinary vocal talents of the featured singers.

Toward the end of 1952, lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green presented their friend and colleague, Leonard Bernstein, with the challenge of composing a musical in just four weeks. The three had collaborated eight years earlier on the popular and highly successful show, On The Town. This second musical ode to New York was based on a series of autobiographical sketches that had appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine about two sisters who come to New York in the 1930's from the mid-west to seek fame and fortune. The four-week deadline in which to complete the new musical was due to the limited availability of the star, Rosalind Russell, who was lined up to play the lead role.

Bernstein accepted the challenge and Wonderful Town premiered on Broadway in February of 1953. The New York Times drama critic, Brooks Atkinson, wrote, " Wonderful the most uproarious and original musical carnival we have had sing Guys and Dolls," and the Daily News review compared Bernstein with George Gershwin. The show went on to win a host of awards and set box office records.

"That is what I feel I write best, what I ought to do and what I most enjoy," Bernstein commented in February 1953, the month Wonderful Town opened, on the subject of composing for the musical theatre. But despite its initial popular and critical success, Wonderful Town is rarely heard or performed today. Conductor Simon Rattle wanted to rectify this situation by recording this gorgeous rendering of a truly singular piece of musical theater genius.

Tidbits: Eli Wallach will host Genius in Love, under the direction of Caroline Stoessinger, at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College on Sunday, October 24 at 2 PM. Genius in Love is part of KeySpan Energy's "Musical Master" series at BCBC. Mr. Wallach will narrate this afternoon of music. Stars of the Metropolitan Opera will perform. Tix are $25 & $30. Box office open Tues.- Sat. 1-6 PM (718) 951-4500.

Eponymous Theatre will present a new play entitled When Words Fail..., by David Dannenfelser, directed by Kevin Kittle, which was first presented in a brief sold-out engagement at the New York International Fringe Festival and will now begin performance at The John Houseman Studio Theatre, 450 West 42nd Street. The official opening night is tonight, Sunday October 10 at 7 P.M. The play runs through October 24. Tix are $12.00 For info and reservations call (212) 358-3430.

Buzz on the previewing Saturday Night Fever is a mixed bag. Some love it, some hate it. I don't know. Seeing 40 disco dancers dancing in unison on a lighted stage seems like an exciting idea to me. Whatever the buzz, the musical has a 15 million dollar advance so it'll be around awhile.

Octoberfest 1999 continues on through the end of the month. Ensemble Studio Theatre is presenting this month long celecration of comedy, drama, music, poetry and storytelling at EST's two stages and it's all FREE. EST is located at 549 West 52nd Stree. For reservations and to confirm program listings call (212) 247-4982.

Tommy Tune reportedly extending his contract out Las Vegas way at the MGM Grand in the spectacle of all spectacles, EFX. Tommy dances up a storm in this special effects extravaganza. His current contract was to expire at the end of December but word has it that he's extended into the millenium.

Clint Holms' show closed in downtown Las Vegas but now he's penned a contract with Harrah's and his show will replace Spellbound, a magic variety show. If you haven't seen Clint perform live, he's simply amazing. His show begins in January.

All's well that ends well! A few months ago I was contacted by someone who was with the original 1948 cast of Kiss Me, Kate inquiring about going to the opening night performance of the revival on Nov. 18th. Well, not only are they going but in conversation we discussed other castmembers who haven't stayed in touch as this handful did for 50 years. Through an intense search on the Internet we came up with a few more. Their dream re-union will come true that night, thanks to the Producers.

Today's chuckle. On a bulletin board in a local church. "The Eighth grade class will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet tonight at 8 PM. Come see this tragedy."

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