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Theatre / Wonderful Town

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Wonderful Town is a musical written by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov, with lyrics by Comden and Green, and music by Leonard Bernstein. Based on the short stories by Ruth McKenney that inspired the earlier, non-musical play My Sister Eileen, it tells the story of Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, two sisters who move to New York City (specifically Greenwich Village), where Ruth intends to make her living as a writer.

The original Broadway production won five Tony awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress in a Musical for Rosalind Russell, who played Ruth.

This play includes examples of:

  • Accidental Art: The opening number has a slapstick interlude where a janitor wins first prize in a Greenwich Village art contest for a well-filled garbage can.
  • Adaptational Nationality: For the sake of a joke in "My Darlin' Eileen," Ruth and Eileen are changed from Irish-American to the daughters of a Swedish mother and a Scottish father.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Ruth and Robert fight a lot before finally realizing that they like each other.
  • Constrained Writing: Ruth says that the letter "W" fell off her typewriter after she wrote her thesis on Walt Whitman, making herself "the only author who never uses a 'w'."
  • Country Mouse: Ruth and Eileen think they are ready for life in the big city. They are very, very wrong.
  • Dingy Trainside Apartment: The basement apartment that Ruth and Eileen share is constantly shaken by explosions from the construction of the subway directly underneath them. The musical is based on author Ruth McKenney's autobiographic short stories about moving to New York and living in a basement apartment directly adjoining the Christopher Street subway station.
  • Dumb Jock: By Wreck's own admission, he was an abysmal student who only made it through college because he "could pass the football like nothin' you had ever seen."
  • Homesickness Hymn: Ruth and Eileen sing "Ohio" as they struggle with adjusting to life in New York City. In the bridge, Ruth points out that they hated living in Ohio, but then they go back to reminiscing after being disrupted by the roar of the subway below their apartment.
  • House Husband: The Wreck is unemployed outside of the professional football season. While Helen works at the office, what he spends the day doing besides drinking is ironing in his shorts and doing almost anything around the house except washing, which he considers women's work. They're not actually married until the last act, however.
  • Incessant Chorus: When Ruth goes to interview a group of Brazilian sailors, they insist that she teach them how to do the conga. Every fourth line is them interrupting one of her questions to shout "CONGA!"
  • "I Want" Song: In "A Quiet Girl", Robert bemoans the fact that he only seems to attract girls like Ruth when he'd much prefer someone quieter and more demure. What he doesn't realize is that beneath her aggressive, argumentative facade, Ruth is exactly that kind of girl.
  • Joe Sent Me: Violet Shelton's clients use the password "Marty sent me." Unfortunately, some of them don't know her address has changed.
  • List Song: "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man" consists of Ruth listing the ways she's managed to scare off her potential suitors over the years, including correcting someone's grammar and demonstrating a superior knowledge of baseball. Thankfully, it doesn't go through all 100.
  • Love Informant: In "It's Love", Eileen tries to get Robert to confess his feelings for Ruth.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: The Wreck sings that he went through college as a Dumb Jock who "thought that dog was c-a-t."
  • Mr. Exposition: The tour guide in the opening number, "Christopher Street," introduces the setting and explains who the supporting characters are.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: In "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man", Ruth complains that men never seem to find intelligent, assertive women attractive.
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Lonigan and his boys are so Irish that one of the Act Two numbers, "Darlin' Eileen", has them launch into a song and jig for Eileen, under the mistaken impression that she's Irish, too.
  • Sports Hero Backstory: Wreck used to be a football star, but those days are long over, and he still hasn't adapted to it.
  • Stylistic Suck: Ruth's initial batch of stories are terrible rip-offs of Noël Coward, Ernest Hemingway, and Clifford Odets.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Ruth and Eileen are just handing over their first month's rent to Mr. Appopolous when a tremendous explosion is heard from underneath—it's blasting for a new subway. Appopolous tries to tell them that they'll get used to it, but the sisters say they want their money back. He tells them: "Listen—in New York you either live, A, over a subway, or, B, where they're building a subway, or C, you don't live in New York!" After he makes a bargain with them and leaves, Eileen tells Ruth that maybe they should have tried Cleveland first. They try to get some sleep on their all-too-stiff beds, but are repeatedly roused by impolite forms of city life, as well as further booms from below. It doesn't help that Ruth's bed is directly under the street lamp, with no window shade to block the light.
  • Write What You Know: The advice Robert gives Ruth in-universe after he reads her stories.