The wonderful world of Wonderful Town


Lilianne Harris, Beat Editor

If you don’t know what Wonderful Town is, that’s okay: this year’s musical is extremely obscure. You don’t need to know much to watch it, but what you need to know is that it’s soundtrack is fantastic.
The music overall is incredibly diverse, yet it never relents in how energetic it is. While there are certainly serious points in the soundtrack, Wonderful Town manages to balance a lighthearted tone with a diversity in style; you’re not going to hear the same funny piece over and over until it’s not funny anymore.
The music of Wonderful Town ranges from more expected show music like “Christopher Street,” the musical’s opening number, to the unexpected, such as the self-descriptive “Conga,” to the downright odd. The song “Conversation Piece” details a number of characters struggling to connect with each other, and features jarring segues back and forth between tempos and styles. It’s awkward and uncomfortable the entire way through, and in that sense is quite unique in conveying its message.
From the perspective of playing the music in pit orchestra this is a complete challenge. Leonard Bernstein, the composer of Wonderful Town also known for popular musical West Side Story, is known for writing notoriously difficult music.
The music borrows difficult rhythms from jazz and Latin music, while constantly changing key signatures to keep the melody within the singer’s range. That, combined with the hours of music you play, makes it an exhausting show. Even if most musicians don’t play in every song, you need a huge amount of concentration and prowess to play Bernstein’s music even decently.
Though the intensity and strangeness of Wonderful Town’s music may seem like a turn-off to watching the musical, it’s absolutely not. In fact, it’s all the more reason to watch it.