Review: Wonderful Town

Connie Fisher is simply Wonderful in this musical comedy, says Emma Lee.

It's more than a quarter of a century since the Bernstein-scored musical comedy Wonderful Town had its last outing in the West End – and almost 60 years since it was written.

And, as this dusted-down version which is at Norwich Theatre Royal this week shows, its revival was overdue.

The story is simple and timeless. Two sisters, Ruth (The Sound of Music's Connie Fisher) and Eileen Sherwood (Lucy Van Gasse of Love Never Dies), move from their Ohio hometown to New York with no money but big dreams – and a knack of attracting trouble.

Ruth, the plain Jane brains, wants to become a writer while Eileen, the bewitching blonde bombshell, is set on making it as an actress.

Sibling rivalry rears its head when they fall for the same man, publisher Bob Baker (double Olivier award nominee and Phanton of the Opera star Michael Xavier).

The plot might be simple on paper, but the show serves up some wonderfully surreal moments, such as the final scene of act one, in which Ruth finds herself caught up in an energetic conga with a group of Brazilian sailors.

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Fisher is an absolute joy to watch. A versatile performer, not only can she sing, she can dance and she's got excellent comic timing, as she demonstrates in 100 Ways To Lose A Man. There are some whip-smart one-liners in the show, and she gets the best ones, delivering them without missing a beat. Maria who?

Fisher and Van Gasse have a great chemistry, which makes their sisterly sparring really believable, and Xavier is a charismatic leading man.

Hearing a Bernstein score played live by an orchestra is an absolute treat – and this joyous swing and jazz-infused score, while one of his lesser known shows, has an engaging familiarity about it.

And it's perfectly complemented by an energetic ensemble, colourful costumes, inventive sets – a bedroom turns into a subway train and an elevator in the blink of an eye – and Andrew Wright's dazzling choreography.

Wonderful Town is in the Fine City until Saturday. Don't miss it.

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