Sir Mark Elder, The Hallé
I first came across this extraordinary piece of theatre in 1999. Simon Rattle conducted a performance of Wonderful Town as part of that year’s Prom season in the Albert Hall, with Kim Criswell singing Ruth. It was extraordinary. The jazzy energy, the sumptuous melodies, it all just carried the audience away. Bernstein at his best is very good, and Wonderful Town is very good Bernstein. The atmosphere that Simon and the music generated was electric, and I think that this must have been the only time a Prom has prompted a Conga round the Albert Hall! I had the chance to see the show fully staged in New York in 2004, with Brooke Shields. It was a great production, running I think for nearly 500 performances – no mean feat on Broadway! When I moved to Manchester in 2000, The Lowry was just about to open. Ever since first seeing the Lyric Theatre I have harboured an ambition to put our wonderful orchestra in that pit. The opportunity to do so as part of a production of such a great show – with the skill and talents of Braham and his team at the Royal Exchange – really is an ambition achieved.