Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Comden Is Back in 'Town'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Comden Is Back in 'Town'

Article excerpt

Betty Comden's smiling face reflects the late-afternoon sun flooding her high-rise apartment as she recalls her illustrious partnership with co-writer and lyricist Adoph Green.

The pair wrote lyrics for "Wonderful Town," one of Broadway's most beloved scores, which is enjoying a sparkling new revival at Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Ms. Comden vividly recalls getting the assignment to write the musical.

"George Abbott called and asked if Adolph and I could write a score in five weeks," she laughs, mimicking the way the director barked the question.

When she told Mr. Green about the project, a musical based on the witty short stories of writer Ruth McKinney, they headed over to visit composer Leonard Bernstein to enlist him in the venture.

"No sooner were we in the door, than the phone rang," Comden recalls. "It was Abbott. 'Is it yes or is it no?' "

When that offer came in 1952, the duo had already established themselves as one of Broadway's and Hollywood's leading writing teams, having penned the lyrics for "On The Town," "Hallelujah, Baby," and the screenplay for "Singin' in the Rain." The commission for "Wonderful Town" reunited them with Bernstein, their composer for "On The Town," and, she adds, "we all loved the challenge of doing it so quickly. Lenny liked the idea of using as much music from the '30s as possible, from the famous Eddie Duchin vamp to the Conga."

Set in the bohemian Greenwich Village of 1938, the story follows the big-city adventures of Ruth Sherwood, an intellectual type bent on forging a writing career, and her beautiful sister Eileen, an aspiring actress.

Together, they endure living in a basement apartment rocked by subway blasting, weeklong diets of spaghetti and meatballs, hordes of Brazilian sailors, and a steady stream of suitors who pursue Eileen and ignore her sister. Rosalind Russell created the role of Ruth. The revival stars Donna Murphy. "Donna is a brilliant performer," Comden volunteers. "As an actress, singer, and dancer, I've never seen anyone better. She's marvelous."

She adds that she's been back to see the show several times, "because it's a first-rate production, in every way. …

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