Synopsis by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
This show celebrates New York as the magnet for young people from all fields of endeavor who, like Ruth and Eileen, still come here to fulfill their aspirations in this Wonderful Town.
Wonderful Town is largely set in Greenwich Village, that agreeable maze that isn’t what it used to be, and probably never was. The times is the summer 1935, and a guide is showing tourists the sights on „Christopher Street“. Ruth and Eileen Sherwood appear, fresh off the train from Ohio, and are tricked into renting a dismal basement apartment. Between visits from the clientele of the former tenant (a lady of dim virtue) and the blasting beneath for a new subway, Ruth and Eileen spend a grisly night, and wish they had stayed behind in „Ohio“. The next day, Eileen, a blonde knockout, finds herself surrounded by suitors almost immediately, as usual, while Ruth, a would-be writer, attractive but lacking in confidence, is ignored („Conquering New York“). Ruth explains her system for „One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man“.
Ruth takes her manuscripts to the offices of a magazine edited by Bob Baker. He bluntly tells her that her melodramatic pieces are bad, and that she should write about things she has experienced. He laments the waste of talent in New York („What a Waste“). Later, feeling sorry for his gruffness with Ruth, he finds the apartment and meets Eileen, who at once falls „A Little Bit in Love“ with him. Another visitor is the Wreck, a former athlete who is not exactly married to the girl who shares his lodgings. He is still dazzled by his college fame in football („Pass the Football“), but does excellent ironing, and being unemployed makes himself helpful around the place. Ruth shows up and invites Baker for dinner, to which Eileen has invited Frank Lippencott, a drugstore manager who showers her with gifts from the daily specials.
As dinner time approaches, Eileen appears with still another guest, Chick Clark, a brash young newspaperman who is hotly pursuing her. The five make a game try at finding mutual interest („Conversation Piece“), but the evening breaks up in an argument and Baker muses that what he really wants is „A Quiet Girl“.
Determined to be alone with Eileen, Chick invents a newspaper assignment for Ruth, who dashes off to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to interview a group of Brazilian cadets. They, however, have nothing on their minds but learning the „Conga!“, and follow the distraught Ruth back to her apartment, dancing all the way. Once they meet Eileen, they switch allegiance immediately and a near-riot ensues as they conga their way through the Village.
Eileen is arrested for disturbing the peace, but so charms the police at the precinct that they are virtually her slaves, even after learning that she is not Irish („My Darlin‘ Eileen“). Ruth manages to get Eileen released, and doggedly takes a job walking through the streets with a sign advertising the Village Vortex, a nightclub, where the new sensation „Swing!“ can be heard. Eileen realizes Ruth loves Baker („Quiet Incidental“ and „Ohio Reprise“) and convinces him that without knowing it he is in love with Ruth. Baker exuberantly expresses his feelings in „It’s Love“. It now appears that Ruth’s story about the Brazilian Navy has won her a job, and Eileen in turn has been given a chance to sing at the Village Vortex, thanks to the notoriety her arrest has brought („Ballet at the Village Vortex“). Together with Ruth, she sings an old family favorite („The Wrong Note Rag“). At the club, Baker and Ruth find each other („It’s Love Reprise“). For Ruth and Eileen, New York has indeed turned out to be a Wonderful Town.