All images by David Ovenden
All Star Productions has done it again.
The in-house team at the Rose and Crown has been giving West End theatres a run for their money for years, and their latest creation is no exception.
Wonderful Town is a joyous, superbly cast musical set in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1930s. Lizzie Wofford evokes His Girl Friday’s Hildy Johnson as no-nonsense writer Ruth, who has arrived from small town Ohio along with her dancer sister Eileen (Francesca Benton-Stace) to search for work.
Arriving on Christopher Street, they meet pushy landlord Appopolous (Nicholas Chiappetta) who cajole the pair into moving into a noisy, run down apartment, taking all their savings for the privilege. The play never loses momentum as we follow their journey from instant regret, to hope and desire, and everything in between. The play has layer after layer to peel back and there’s little chance to get bored as the cast launch into another brilliant Bernstein number, such as ‘What a Waste’, a humorous ditty with dark, repressed undercurrents of forgotten dreams.
Each actor plays out their character’s imperfections flawlessly, from Frank (Hugo Joss Catton)’s oafishness to the Wreck (Simon Burr)’s illiteracy to Eileen’s naivety.
While some of the lyrics seem a little dated – “Just throw your knowledge in his face/He’ll never try for second base”, and some of the 1930s references are lost on the audience; much of the storyline remains pertinent in 2016. Themes such as the search for a decent standard of living and awkward dinner parties set a realistic tone to an otherwise raucous production.
It’s an incredibly tight production, given the space above the pub in which to perform. Wonderful Town has been nominated for a whole stack of Offie awards, including best choreographer, best female performance, best supporting female performance and best musical director. It’s not hard to see why.
It should win all of them.
Wonderful Town is at Ye Old Rose and Crown until 30 October. Tickets available here.
Ye Olde Rose and Crown, 53 Hoe Street, London E17 4SA