One of the most anticipated events of each school year is the annual spring musical, directed by Erin Maciver. Following last year’s “The Music Man”, composed by Meredith Willson, this year’s actors will bring to life Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town”. The piece takes place in New York City in 1935, following sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood as they attempt to adjust from their life in small town Ohio and make it big in New York. The piece was written in 1953 as a musical adaptation of the autobiographical short stories of Ruth Mckenny titled “My Sister Eileen.” This book of short stories became a play under the same name in 1940 before the story made its final transition to a musical. Ruth and Eileen McKinley followed the same initial story as their characters, moving from Ohio to New York and living in a dingy apartment in Greenwich Village, however almost every other character and event in the play is fictional. “Wonderful Town” premiered on Broadway in 1953 and was eventually taken off broadway in 1966. It won five Tony Awards including Best Musical.
At Nantucket High School, “Wonderful Town” features many familiar faces on the stage as well as many new ones. The roles of Ruth and Eileen are personified through talented actresses Nicole LeBlanc and Maisie Cocker, respectively. The two quickly discover that the city life isn’t nearly as glamorous as they had hoped when they see their living arrangements: a dismal apartment owned by Mr. Appopolous (Ben Rudd), the village landlord. Whilst job hunting, Ruth meets Robert Baker (Beck Barsanti), who tells her the truth about how rare success is in New York, urging her to seek a writing career back home in Ohio. Eileen, however, is attracting the attention of most men in the city, most notably Frank Lippencott (Matt Nesselrodt), a manager at Walgreens, and Chick Clark (Peter Bulger), a sleazy newspaper editor. As the plot progresses, romances blossom and tensions arise as Ruth and Eileen realize that they’ve bitten off a lot more than they can chew. The dynamic between Eileen’s impulsive, good natured outlook on life and Ruth’s often skeptical and cynical attitude makes up most of the humor, conflict, and tension in the show.
At the moment, the cast is blocking the show, meaning that MacIver and choreographer Amanda Harrington are bringing the scenes from the scripts to the stage and plotting where each cast member will move and what they will do. The cast of veteran actors and brand new thespians alike is very excited to continue with the rehearsal process and eventually get to the actual performances. When asked about what excites them the most about “Wonderful Town,” many of the veteran cast members agreed that acting with a lot of the new actors and seeing what the future of NHS theatre could be is very exciting. Likewise, many new actors are excited to try their hand at theatre at NHS and are looking forward to acting alongside of their peers. Seasoned senior actress Nicole Leblanc is mainly excited to “share the stage with some of my favorite people one last time,” and to “share a story of love, family, and chasing adventure. I think it’s the perfect way to finish senior year.” First-time actor Alec Vollans urges audience members to keep their eyes peeled during ensemble numbers for, “the fun little details contained within every scene.” Every actor plays a role in “Wonderful Town,” and even if you aren’t a main character, you serve to advance the plot in some way shape or form, making the musical excellent since every part is important and every actor is vital.
“Wonderful Town” is still early in production, but right now all members of the cast and crew are very excited to share this story with the wider Nantucket audience. The show opens on Thursday March 14th and runs until the Sunday the 17th. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s shows all start at 7 with a Sunday Matinee at 2.
By Beck Barsanti