Cover image for Wonderful town
Wonderful town
Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : EMI Classics, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 audio disc (66 min., 46 sec.) : digital, stereophonic ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
EMI Classics: 7243 5 56753 2 3 (on container: CDC 7243 5 56753 2 3).

"Based upon the play My sister Eileen by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov and the stories by Ruth McKenney"--Insert.

Compact disc.

Program and biographical notes, synopsis, and lyrics (35 p. : ill.) inserted in container.
Overture (5:19) -- Christopher Street (4:58) -- Ohio (3:29) -- Conquering New York (3:52) -- One hundred easy ways (3:22) -- What a waste (3:07) -- A little bit in love (2:58) -- Pass the football (3:46) -- Conversation piece (3:48) -- A quiet girl (3:38) -- Conga! (3:36) -- Entr'acte (3:54) -- My darlin' Eileen (3:33) -- Swing! (5:14) -- Quiet incidental (:49) -- Reprise : Ohio (1:25) -- It's love (3:33) -- Ballet at the Village Vortex (2:28) -- Wrong note rag (2:25) -- Reprise : It's love (1:23).
Subject Term:
Format :
Music CD


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
MUSICAL .B531 WON-1 Compact Disc Central Library
MUSICAL .B531 WON-1 Compact Disc Central Library

On Order



Wonderful Town, Leonard Bernstein's second musical with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, was an agreeable adaptation of the engaging play My Sister Eileen that allowed the songwriters an opportunity to satirize the popular music and artistic trends of the 1930s. It was also a star vehicle for Rosalind Russell, who had starred in the non-musical film version, My Sister Eileen, in 1942. It is not, as the press release accompanying this studio recording claims, a "lost masterpiece, " or, as annotator Miles Krueger writes, "a masterwork" like Bernstein's Candide and West Side Story, which may be why it has been performed and recorded far less frequently. It is a singularly inappropriate work for the overblown orchestral/opera singer treatment frequently applied to theater music since the '80s, but this version, which finds Simon Rattle conducting the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the London Voices, and principals Kim Criswell, Audra McDonald, and Thomas Hampson, is not as bad as might have been feared. As Ruth, Criswell, of course, is a better singer than Russell, but exactly because Russell wasn't much of a singer, the role is not very demanding vocally. Criswell lacks Russell's command, but she's funny. As Eileen, McDonald, as usual, is a joy, finding new ways to approach the show's big love songs, "A Little Bit in Love" and "It's Love." Hampson, unfortunately, comes off as an opera baritone, which makes "What a Waste" a vocal showcase rather than the stinging account of disappointed hopes it should be. At over 66 minutes, this is one of the longer versions of the show on record, adding the instrumental dance music Conquering New York, an Entr'acte, and Quiet Incidental, which is a dialogue scene with underscoring. But there isn't really much new Bernstein music here; the score was famously written in only four weeks, and that was possible because there really isn't that much of it. Theater music fans will welcome the longer version though, as well as the libretto with stage directions that is included. But classical music fans aren't likely to be convinced that the work is first-class Bernstein. And the best version of the show on record remains the 1958 TV cast album with Russell. ~ William Ruhlmann