In 1940 the comedy My Sister Eileen was produced
on Broadway. Written by Joseph Fields and Jerome
Chodorov, it was based on the autobiographical stories of Ruth McKenney published in The New Yorker
magazine in the 1930s. The plot revolved around two sisters, Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, hoping to find a
place for their talents in New York City.
In 1942 the play was made into a film also called My Sister Eileen, starring Rosalind Russell. Several musical
versions of the play were discussed and worked on until the rights were acquired by Robert Fryer. Fryer took
it to director George Abbot. Fields and Chodorov adapted their play into a libretto and Leroy Anderson and
Arnold Horwitt wrote the score. However the score did not please Fryer, the playwrights or Rosalind Russell,
who had agreed to star in her first Broadway musical (at age forty one).
Five weeks before rehearsals were due to begin, Abbot asked Bernstein to bolster the score with some numbers.
He declined but offered to compose a new score in conjunction with Adolph Green and Betty Comden. Abott
agreed and when Jerome Robbins came on board it became a reunion for those who had worked on On the
Wonderful Town had rave out of town tryout reviews and hit New York City's Winter Garden Theatre on
February 25th 1953. Broadway critics raved calling it the best musical since Guys and Dolls. Russell also
received the best print of her career.
Recently there has been renewed interest
in Wonderful Town. Simon Rattle's new recording on EMI will help
fuel this interest with a great recording which supplements the recording (also good) of the 1958 TV version
which had been available on Sony (CBS).