Tag Archives: Wonderful Town
This month, Grant Gershon is doing something no other person has ever done. He is conducting performances at three of the city’s most celebrated music organizations – LA Opera (Wonderful Town), LA Philharmonic (John Adams’ El Niño), and the LA Master Chorale (Festival of Carols and Handel’s Messiah) – all in one month. This is an exciting time for the renowned conductor and Artistic Director of the Master Chorale, who has a lifelong relationship with the Music Center (including LA Opera).
Gershon is a Californian through and through, hailing from the city of Alhambra, and educated at Chapman University and at the University of Southern California. He first pursued a career as a pianist and was suspicious of conductors with the anti-authoritarian spirit of a teenager growing up in the 1970s. Twenty years later, Gershon found himself at the Music Center, working as an assistant conductor and principal pianist at LA Opera. It was here that Gershon discovered a passion for conducting.
Wonderful Town opens on Friday, December 2nd, and we’ve been watching rehearsals all week. Here are some things we thought might surprise you.
1. Long before Carrie Bradshaw lived in Greenwich Village, Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, played by Faith Prince and Nikki M. James, sought out to find fame and fortune in the big city. Greenwich Village is the backdrop for Wonderful Town.
2. One guy can play lots of parts. Roger Bart, serves as the narrator of Wonderful Town, but he also serves as the Tour Guide, Speedy Valenti – the nightclub owner, Chick Clark – the sharp newspaper guy and others too. … Continue reading
You can learn a lot about the 1930s from Wonderful Town. When aspiring reporter Ruth interviews a group of Brazilian cadets near the end of Act One, her topics were only two decades in the past for the show’s first audiences in 1953. Today, however, many of her references to Depression-era American culture have grown obscure. Here’s a quick guide to some of them.
“What do you think of the NRA? TVA?”
Nope, not the National Rifle Association. The National Recovery Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority were part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to help the country recover from the Great Depression. The NRA was designed to promote recovery by establishing a code system of fair competition for industries; it was declared unconstitutional in 1935. The TVA was one of the largest New Deal projects, created to build dams, reservoirs and electrical stations. It brought affordable power and jobs to millions in an impoverished, rural region.
“What do you think of Charles G. Dawes? Warden Lawes?”
Dawes was Calvin Coolidge’s vice president from 1925 to 1929. He had shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for his work on the Dawes Plan, designed to provide economic relief to Germany after the first World War. He was the American ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1929 to 1932, then served as chairman of the board of City National Bank from 1932 until his death in 1951.
As warden of Sing Sing from 1920 to 1941, the progressive reformer Lewis E. Lawes modernized the overcrowded and crumbling prison. He famously organized basketball and football games for his “boys,” with his wife and three daughters watching in the bleachers, seated with the inmates.
“Good neighbors, remember our policy”
Part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933, the Good Neighbor Policy was a pledge that the U.S. would treat Latin American nations with respect. With a goal of increasing trade with these nations, this new policy marked a departure from earlier administrations’ interventionism in Latin American foreign and domestic affairs.
Beloved Broadway diva Faith Prince won a Tony Award for her indelible portrayal of Miss Adelaide in a blockbuster 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, her third show on the Great White Way. She now makes her LA Opera debut as Ruth Sherwood in Wonderful Town, another classic mid-century musical comedy.
How does a girl from Lynchburg, Virginia, end up on Broadway?
My parents weren’t performers, but I sang in the chorus and was in musicals in my school, which had a terrific drama program. My wonderful chorus director Carl Harris helped me get into the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and that changed my life. I started to see that I was making headway, that maybe I could do theater for a living. I went to Washington DC for a job that got me an Equity card, and then moved to New York in January of 1981. Not too long after that, I got into an Off Broadway show in Boston, got an agent, and I was off and running. And now I’ve just finished my 14th Broadway show!
You’ve worked with two of your Wonderful Town cast mates before on Broadway—Marc Kudisch in Bells Are Ringing in 2001 and Roger Bart in Disaster! earlier this year.
I love Roger like my own child. And I adore Marc, too. He’s a pussycat and I’m excited that he’s doing a sweet role for a change! My list of leading men is insanely wonderful, everybody from Jason Alexander to Nathan Lane, Richard Kind, Kevin Chamberlin, Oliver Platt, Martin Short… And I also worked with our director, David Lee, in Two by Two here in Los Angeles for Reprise.
For years, the version of New York City that Leonard Bernstein and Betty Comden and Adolph Green created in Wonderful Town really was the New York that many people around the country believed existed. It was a place where everyone was a lot smarter, a lot tougher, and moved a lot faster than other Americans did. Wonderful Town depicted New Yorkers with a wised-up wit, an unapologetic brashness (with a beating heart underneath), and battle scars from years of surviving life in the city—characters we came to believe were very much like the creators themselves.
We’ve finally announced the 2016/2017 season and it’s going to be a big one. There are six mainstage operas, a semi-staged concert, and stellar off-grand productions to enjoy starting September 17.
Can’t wait for the excitement to begin? Take a look below and get to know all the 16/17 season has in store for Los Angeles.
Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite to open season with Verdi’s Macbeth
The season opens with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth (September 17 through October 16, 2016), starring Plácido Domingo in the title role and conducted by James Conlon. Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. LA Opera’s first production of Macbeth since 1987 will be staged by Darko Tresnjak, director of the 2015 hit The Ghosts of Versailles.