The American Dream

Isn’t it lucky that Sir Mark Elder went to New York? If he hadn’t, we might not have had Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town to enjoy, here at the Lowry in another wonderful town.

I could see his left ear, but for the most part I forgot all about Sir Mark, except when I noticed a pair of arms flapping somewhere in front of me, and wondered about it before remembering this was actually a musical with the whole of the Hallé hiding down in the orchestra pit. (Although Daughter sneaked a look down and said it couldn’t be all of them and she didn’t see Roberto Carrillo-García anywhere.) I love it when the serious players play lighter stuff. They do it so well.

That’s why it was easy to forget they were there. Perfection is unobtrusive. And this was perfection. Speedy Valenti had a nerve instructing Sir Mark and his band from up there on the stage…

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

What happened on stage was also perfect, but because it happened right in front of me I didn’t miss it. And who would want to miss this? Simon Higlett’s set and costume design must count as one of the most pleasing I have ever seen. Possibly the best ever. New York never looked more New Yorkish, including a natty little elevated train.

And those clothes! The clothes were to die for, and that goes for everyone from leading lady Connie Fisher’s to every last one of the dancers’. It was an interesting – and oh so American – blend of 1930s to 1950s style. The kind we privately aspire to and usually fail to achieve. It was a clever move to have the dancers help Connie and her stage sister Lucy van Gasse dress on stage.

Those dancers are every bit as marvellous as director Braham Murray said they were. Choreographer Andrew Wright even had his dancers conga-ing down the aisles at the Lowry, and as for the Riverdance sequence in jail, well…

Jailors and sailors all fell for Lucy’s beautiful Eileen. Every single male (and I don’t necessarily mean ‘single’) in New York followed Eileen around and having witnessed Michael Xavier try to walk into the ladies toilet at the launch, I know only too well what hit her admirers.

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

Michael as Bob Baker was a singing Dan Stevens-lookalike. Somewhat dim when it came to what he really, really thought of Connie’s Ruth, but eventually the penny dropped. There isn’t a tremendous amount of plot here. Two sisters arrive in New York, looking for jobs and maybe fame and fortune. They meet people. At least, Eileen meets people. Men. They make friends. Ruth gets her Bob – and a press card – and Eileen gets a job with Valenti.

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

The finale with the sisters wearing the most gorgeous glittery dresses and happy endings for both major and minor characters is perfect.

We need a CD. Possibly even a DVD. (Are you listening at the Lowry, the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Hallé?)

Wonderful Mancunians who haven’t yet booked need to do so urgently. People in other wonderful towns must see to their ticket needs for the wonderful tour of Wonderful Town. Who knows when we get to see anything like it again?

I want to go again tomorrow, and maybe next week, too. And if all else fails, I will really need that CD.

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