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THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2007
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Donna Murphy, as Ruth, and company in 'Conga' from the touring production of 'Wonderful Town,' which will be in Huntsville on March 30 through April 1.
Courtesy photo by Paul Kolnik
Donna Murphy, as Ruth, and company in "Conga" from the touring production of "Wonderful Town," which will be in Huntsville on March 30 through April 1.

'Wonderful Town,' a musical tribute to New York, coming to Huntsville

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Ruth and Eileen McKenney's aspirations are fairly typical. The sisters from Ohio wanted to live in New York City's Greenwich Village and make it big — Ruth as a writer and Eileen as an actress.

They are the main characters of "Wonderful Town," a musical tribute to New York City that will play in Huntsville on March 30 through April 1.

This touring production features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with songs such as "Ohio" and "A Little Bit in Love." Don't remember them? Then it's time to see this revival.

"Wonderful Town" opened on Broadway in 1953 and ran for 559 performances, taking five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The 2003 revival was nominated for six Tony Awards and won for Best Choreography.

The musical is based on the play "My Sister Eileen" by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov and stories by Ruth McKenney, from the true adventures of the McKenney sisters.

The autobiographical stories by Ruth, who started out as a reporter in Ohio, originally were published in The New Yorker and later a book, which was the subject of an earlier play in 1940.

Tragically, four days before the original play version of "My Sister Eileen" opened on Broadway, Eileen and her husband, writer Nathaniel West, author of "Day of the Locust," were killed in a car accident.

She has lived on for decades, however, in this production, where actresses portraying her provide plenty of comic moments, as well as the beauty and charm that attracted more gentlemen callers than job offers. A supermarket floor manager gives her free food samples, a nightclub owner might hire her if he gets to know her better, and a Walgreens manager gives her free lunches.

Her sister, Ruth, with average looks, doesn't draw men or publishers for her stories. And the plot turns hilarious when the sisters lease an apartment once occupied by a prostitute.

Ruth is sent on a phony assignment by Chick Clark, a slick newspaperman eager to be alone with Eileen, and returns with a group of Conga-dancing Brazilian sailors.

The wild party ends with the arrest of Eileen, who is accused of being part of a prostitution ring.

When they extricate themselves from that situation, they realize both have their eye on the same guy.

Finally, they catch a break. Ruth lands a newspaper job and finds love, while Eileen makes her debut as a nightclub singer, and they find that New York is a "Wonderful Town" after all.

If you go

What: “Wonderful Town,” a touring production sponsored by Broadway Theatre League

When: March 30 at 8 p.m.; March 31 at 2 and 8 p.m.; April 1 at 2 and 7 p.m.

Where: Von Braun Center Concert Hall, Huntsville

Tickets: $28 to $51; call Ticketmaster, (800) 277-1700 or online at www.ticketmaster.com, visit the VBC box
office, or call Broadway Theatre League, 518-615
5

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