WONDERFUL TOWN. Music by Leonard Bernstein. Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. New York City Opera. At Lincoln Center through Nov. 20.
The New York City Opera has had hits and misses when it comes to its continuing program of presenting classic Broadway musicals.
The company's most recent entry, the 1953 smash hit ``Wonderful Town'' (playing through this weekend), with music by Leonard Bernstein, a book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov, and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, falls in the middle of the quality spectrum.
But any qualms about the merits of this production are offset by the fact that this show, which has not had a major New York revival in decades, is being done at all.
Based on the play ``My Sister Eileen,'' the show tells the adventures of a pair of sisters from Ohio making their way in the Big Apple, specifically Greenwich Village, in 1939. ``Wonderful Town'' originally starred Rosalind Russell, but it's notable mainly for the wonderfully tuneful Bernstein score, beautifully played here under Eric Stern's conducting.
Although no hits emerged from the show, songs like ``Ohio,'' ``A Little Bit in Love,'' and ``The Wrong Note Rag'' still charm, and the Act I closer, ``Conga,'' is great fun. The book must have seemed creaky even 40 years ago, but Richard Sabellico's production is sprightly, and Tina Paul has contributed some energetic choreography, particularly for the ``Swing'' number. Kay McClelland, playing Ruth (the Russell role), has a comic sassiness that is marvelously appealing. Crista Moore, as her sister Eileen, has the appeal needed for a character who leaves all the men dropping in her wake. Impressive baritone Richard Muenz again proves himself to be a leading man of charm and power.
Try to get a seat in the orchestra or first ring of the cavernous New York State Theater. Anywhere else is too far away to fully enjoy the show.