Donna Murphy Steals the Show
by David Lee
Like most musicals, Wonderfultown has a cliché plot but other than that it is a production filled with color, energy and ferocious comedy. Set in 1935 New York, it opens with Christopher Street, a diverse street filled with artists, poets, and dancers. Smalltown girls Ruth (Donna Murphy) and Eileen (Jennifer Westfeldt) are determined to succeed as a reporter and actress respectively in the big city. The big apple can be tough with its heartless competitive citizens. As a woman, ambitious Ruth must struggle to beat out the men in her field while lighthearted beautiful Eileen must constantly fight off potential suitors. Despite failure, these sisters rely on each other for guidance and support and eventually succeed.
Donna Murphy delivers a stellar performance. As the intelligent bold Ruth, she is able to portray a strong personality with a reporter-like 30s accent. Her character is reminiscent of Jane Russell's character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes while Westfeldt attempts to be Marylin Monroe. Wedstfeldt definitely knows how to play a ditzy character but her singing is off tune with her high pitched voice. Murphy knows how to rile up the audience as she sings and dances. While thrusting her hips and belting high notes, she seduces the audience into a laughing frenzy. I have seen Murphy in other films and this is definitely an addition to her character acting resume. She shines in this role and brings out her acting expertise.
Ruth must struggle to find a man while her sister is a magnet to the opposite sex. Her intelligent go-getter personality is a turn off to most men. In her "One Hundred Ways," she is uproarious as she cheerfully recounts romantic situations. Then, she changes her voice and sings about how she always botches things up with her wealth of knowledge and masculinity.
Wonderfultown shows Manhattan during the depression era. It shows starving artists and talented individuals who will do anything to get that big break. Bernstein's score shines along with Murphy. It gives that big city feel complete with jazz and blues. I particularly enjoyed "All Around New York," a number about Ruth and Eileen's first day in the city. They get rejected from job interviews, pushed around on the subway and realize that they are just a number in a metropolis monster. Percussion and drum beats add to the chaotic nature and show Ruth that New York can be a ruthless place.
This is Murphy's show. Without her, the musical would lose so much as the other characters are not developed like Ruth. If you are in the New York Area, Wonderfultown is definitely a go-see.