By Laura Soble, YMTC Publicity
Two young women, sisters, from Columbus, Ohio arrive in New York City to
pursue their dreams. One dreams of finding love, the other, work.
They are faced with making it in a man’s world, and their adventures in the big city form the stuff of the lively, comedic, dance-filled musical
Wonderful Town is adapted from the play My Sister Eileen, written by Joseph
Fields and Jerome Chodorov, which is based on a book of short stories that Ruth
McKenney wrote in the late 1930s about going to New York.
The musical score is by Leonard Bernstein, and the YMTC (Youth Musical Theater Company) production will feature resident music director Dave Moschler
conducting a 25 piece jazz orchestra using the original Don Walker orchestrations.
“This all goes back to the text and score as part of storytelling,” Moschler notes.
“Broadway orchestrators are the greatest arrangers on the planet. Using the original orchestrations is like having the choice between a script by the original author, or something that has been watered down or changed.”
“My favorite thing about Wonderful Town is that the relationship between the sisters is the heart of the story," said YMTC Artistic Director Jennifer Boesing. "Their love and support for each other in this new adventure they are undertaking is exciting. It’s also about following your heart against all odds, following your dream and being brave. Young people can resonate and feel connected to that idea of bravery and strength in the face of adversarial situations—which is what is happening in coming to New York City as young girls from Ohio into a world of men, and of animosity, and hustle and bustle. They are brave and face their foes with determined energy about who they are going to become.”
Berkeley High School junior Lena Mayer, 16, plays older sister Ruth, and
describes her character as “witty, sarcastic and guarded. She wants to be a writer, but being a writer in the 1930s is difficult for a woman, and she has to overcome a lot of obstacles.”
Mayer is a YMTC veteran, having performed in five previous shows, including
the lead role of Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. She has high praise for the many artists she’s worked with through YMTC.
“I’ve met many really talented kids who have motivated me to attain the same level. Being involved in the theatre gives me more confidence in overall presentation of myself and approaching different types of material,” she said.
When not singing and dancing, Lena can be found on the Berkeley High
Varsity Softball team, where she pitches and plays infield, with a goal of playing college softball.
Catilin Cobb-Vialet, 17, a junior at Oakland Technical High School, plays Eileen.
Wonderful Town marks her sixth production with YMTC. She describes her role Eileen Sherwood, the little sister of Ruth, as “a pretty exceptional character. She seems like the classic love interest: very open and she can come across as ditsy, but she’s not dumb. She a human being who’s not self conscious and lets herself be vulnerable and free. She carries herself with confidence. What makes the show special and what makes Eileen happy and fulfilled, in the end, is supporting her sister.”
Cobb-Vialet sees the show’s appeal in the current time related to the phenomena of “Wicked, a show about two women in which their friendship holds the show together. “It’s more satisfying to have a secure friendship between girls than a big wedding.”
Cobb-Vialet, currently in the process of writing a play with her drama class at Oakland Tech, is interested in designing fashion, as well as pursuing acting.
YMTC, Youth Musical Theater Company, is an award-winning Berkeley-based
company, training serious actor/singers from grades 7 through university through producing professional musical theater.
YMTC’s production of Wonderful Town runs for two weekends: March 1, 2, 8, 9 at 7:30 p.m., and March 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, and is appropriate for all ages.
The show features students from the greater East Bay area.
*Laura Soble is an El Cerrito resident who loves live theater, and serves on
the board of directors of YMTC (Youth Musical Theater Company).