I didn't quite know what to expect from this lesser known Broadway musical. 'Tony Award Winning' gave it some hope, but I've come to learn that if you don't like it, it's awards are irrelevant to your enjoyment.
I'd heard very little of this musical so approached it with an open mind. I'm a little wary of older musicals, I think you either get it right or they're a giant borefest. Wonderful Town got it right.
Length is a slight issue with the show, I'm not a particular fan of long overtures, but this one was varied enough to keep interest. The score throughout was as wonderful as the wonderful town itself. Act I ran for 90 minutes which however good something is, that's a long time to be squashed into a theatre seat next to a stranger unwrapping humbugs incessantly. Act II was shorter and faster paced (and Mrs Stranger had finished her humbugs in the interval - result!)
As the gauze raised we were presented with a chorus of cheery American folk going about their day on Christopher Street. Simon Higlett's set is strikingly colourful, the scene transitions are both fast yet artistically done, it's very clever.
The choreography of Andrew Wright is by far the best I've seen for quite a while. It captures the spirit of this ageing musical but in a fresh, dynamic and exciting way. It's perfect. It reminded me exactly why I love musical theatre - the energy, the campness and the enthusiasm was through the roof.
Standout performances from Lucy Van Gasse as Eileen and Michael Xavier as Bob Baker were great to watch. Both gave an incredible show attacking Bernstein's score with much power and secured audience attention with their portrayals of both characters. Also, Tiffany Graves made a fantastic Helen and I felt she was much more at home in Wonderful Town than as Killer Queen on the 2011 UK tour of We Will Rock You. Of course, Connie Fisher from TV's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria was a delight as Ruth.
This is definitely one to watch when the tour visits your own wonderful town.
The tour runs until 7th July 2012 and plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 26th May.