Opera Holland Park, London
As the world returns to a new normal, there aren’t many better ways to spend an evening than enjoying a glorious musical in the beautiful setting of Opera Holland Park. Quick Fantastic has returned to the space to present Wonderful Town, the half-forgotten 30s musical which brims with exhilarating jazz and witty comedy.
Under Alex Parker’s musical direction, Bernstein’s score soars around the auditorium and reminds us just how brilliant the older Broadway musicals can be. The comedy on stage is matched perfectly with the music and the whole affair feels as rich and jubilant as can be. The musical diversity is also a treat to hear, with an Irish jig, a beatnik scat and some moving ballads, there’s really something for everyone.
The book by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields is basically the story who two sisters from Ohio who arrive in the New York with dreams of taking the town by storm. The source material for the show was taken from autobiographical short stories by Ruth, the sister who longed for a writing career and chronicled her and her sisters’ lives in The New Yorker. There are a number of little adventures the duo go on whilst finding their careers (and romances) which make for a highly entertaining and all round wholesome story.
Ruth is played with grit and wit by West End superstar, Louise Dearman, who seems almost made for the role of the sassy, vulnerable, bookish author. Of course Louise is vocally effortless and provides some real highlights, but she also shines in the humorous moments which help make the whole production feel so jubilant.
Balancing Dearman out is the equally brilliant Siubhan Harrison as Eileen, the sister who knows how to get what she wants but in the end is unwaveringly committed to her sister. The double act are a dream to watch and have the audience wrapped around their little fingers, especially during their smooth as butter rendition of Ohio.
The male love interests are performed by Ako Mitchell who is vocally divine and very authentic as magazine editor Bob; Roger Dipper who is utterly wonderful and so humorous as the bumbling Walgreens worker Frank Lippencott; and Alex Lodge who is suitably sleazy as newspaper hack Chick Clark.
Billy Nevers is the washed up football player The Wreck, and Emma Harrold is his secret fiancé, Helen. Both do a great job of padding out their characters as well as providing super strong vocals and some light-hearted comedic moments.
The rest of the cast made up of: Jade Albertsen, Robson Broad, Ashley Daniels, Tamsin Dowsett, Gregory Haney, Jas[er Kajd and Natasha Leaver are super sleek throughout whilst bringing the vibes of 30s New York to life. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is superb and a joy to watch.
From a conga to an incarceration there’s a lot to enjoy and laugh at, and the cast do an outstanding job of making a semi-staged production feel full. Overall it’s a wonderful night at Wonderful Town.
Photos by Danny Kaan