18 July 2015

'On the Town'

Wanna see a T. rex fossil dance?  How ’bout a clan of cavemen?  Then head down to the Museum of Natural History.  No, not the one in Central Park at 79th Street—the one at the Lyric Theatre on 42nd Street west of 7th Avenue.  That’s where On the Town is on stage.  The current revival of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s World War II musical is, if nothing else, a romp, mostly a throw-back to the heyday of old-fashioned musical comedy—before it had to be rechristened “musical theater” or even “musical drama”—with a little tweaking for the 21st century.  It doesn’t deal with anything serious or substantial; it’s all about having fun—the audience in the theater; the sailors and their girls in a Lifesaver-colored New York, New York (that dancing T. rex is lemon yellow, for example); and, we trust, the dancers, singers, and actors on stage and the musicians in the pit.  My companion, Diana, said she hadn’t realized how “corny” the book of On the Town is, but I enjoyed myself despite the execrable weather outside (a drenching rain).

1944’s On the Town is a legendary American musical, with book and lyrics by Comden and Green—their first collaboration for the Broadway stage—and music by Bernstein (his first Broadway score).  To complete the foursome, Jerome Robbins, whose ballet for the American Ballet Theatre, Fancy Free, that premièred on 18 April that same year, had been the foundation of the musical, was brought in to choreograph, also his first musical theater gig.  (The original Broadway outing that opened on 28 December at the Adelphi Theatre, now demolished, was directed by the veteran—and immensely successful—George Abbott.)  It ran over a year, accumulating 462 performances; Comden and Green were among the interracial cast, appearing as Claire de Loone, a not-so-repressed anthropologist, and Ozzie, the lead sailor who meets her at the museum, respectively.  In 1949, MGM, which had helped finance the stage show in return for the movie rights, turned On the Town into a film starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly (as Chip and Gabey, the two other principal swabbies), but the studio replaced all the songs except “New York, New York” with Hollywood fare.

Later productions of On the Town didn’t meet with a great deal of success.  The London première in 1963 closed after 63 performances, the 1971 and ’98 Broadway revivals ran for only 73 and 69 performances each (despite the presence in the cast of Phyllis Newman, Bernadette Peters, and Donna McKechnie in the ’71 restaging).  The 1998 version had been a transfer by the Public Theater from its summer season at the outdoor Delacorte Theater which had been a popular hit, but apparently suffered from the move indoors.

Concert presentations have been popular, starting with a 1992 semi-staging by Michael Tilson Thomas leading the London Symphony Orchestra which then was remounted with the San Francisco Symphony in 1996.  New York City’s Encores! presented a concert version of On the Town in 2008, directed by John Rando, who staged the 2014 Broadway revival, and featuring Tony Yazbeck as Gabey, a role he repeated in the staging I saw. 

The English National Opera placed the musical in its repertory in 2007.  New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse mounted a revival in 2009 and in 2013, Rando directed a production of On the Town for the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with essentially the same cast as the one that opened at the Lyric (formerly the Foxwoods, after a slew of previous renamings) on 16 October 2014.  The current staging started previews on Broadway on 20 September 2014, accumulating 288 performances as of this writing (28 June).  The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the revival’s producers are planning a National Tour in the 2015-16 season to coincide with the centennial of Bernstein’s birth.  (Some listings indicate that On the Town plans to close by 1 September to go out on the tour, but the Internet Broadway Database, maintained by the Broadway League, doesn’t list a closing date.)  My friend Diana and I saw the performance at the Lyric on Saturday evening, 27 June; we picked up tickets for the two-hour-and-thirty-five minute show (with one intermission) at TDF’s discount TKTS booth in Duffy Square.

I won’t do a detailed synopsis of the plot; it’s so well known and far too easy to look up.  I’ll just say that it’s set in wartime New York City and tells the story of three sailors, Chip, Gabey, and Ozzie, on liberty from their ship for a mere 24 hours.  (At pre-set, there’s a giant American flag filling the proscenium, and then the orchestra plays “The Star-Spangled Banner”—substituting for a formal overture—bringing the audience to its feet, the first time I’ve seen that in an American theater, though the Brits still do it.)  During their day in the Big City, they plan to see all the famous sights and “pick up a date . . . .  Maybe seven . . . .  Or eight” on their way.  They do less well with the first goal than the second, as Gabey, the romantic, falls in love with the photo on the subway of the new Miss Turnstiles, Ivy Smith (there was an actual Miss Subways contest from 1941 to 1976); Ozzie, the stud, meets Claire de Loone, an anthropologist working at the Museum of Natural History, and they get “Carried Away” (the raucous number, written by Comden and Green for themselves, that includes the dancing T. rex—an honest-to-God hoot); and the schedule-making, sight-seeking Chip (whose family name is Offenblock—get it?) finds trouser-chasing Hildy (for Brunhilde, no less) Esterhazy in wait in her cab for a likely passenger.  The story’s mostly improbable—especially if you actually know New York City!—but no one cares, because it’s all a helluva fantasy and part of the fun is seeing the shipmates get into difficulties (they start right out when Gabey removes the poster of Ivy from its frame and an old lady rats his theft of city property to a cop) and then get out pretty much by dumb luck.  You know they will, but it’s how it happens that’s the heart of the play.  So, hang on, for just as Hildy gives Chip a whirlwind, high-speed tour of the entire city (she can’t wait to get him to “Come Up to My Place”), Comden, Green, Bernstein, Rando, Joshua Bergasse (the choreographer who drew from Robbins’s spirit), and Beowulf Boritt (the set and projection designer) give us one helluva view of this “vistor’s place”!  (The New York City PR organization has recently—just about when On the Town opened—launched an ad campaign to urge New Yorkers to “See Your City.”  If city-dwellers don’t want to be actual tourists in their hometown, a visit to On the Town comes close to being a virtual substitute.  But with singing and dancing.)

(A joke in Comden and Green’s book is that Chip has a guidebook his father gave him from the older man’s visit to the City in 1934.  Most of the places in it the sailor’s supposed to see—“I promised Daddy I wouldn't miss on any”—were gone by 1944, like the Hippodrome, which closed in 1939; the famous Woolworth Building, which Chip reads was the tallest building in the world, no longer holds that title, Hildy tells him, now that they have the Empire State.  Since the play’s first run, however, many of the places named in the libretto are also gone now, too; the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the men’s ship is docked, closed in 1966, for instance, and though the Woolworth Building is still around, Woolworth’s five-and-dimes aren’t.  Nonetheless, the Bronx is still up and the Battery’s still down—and the people still ride in a hole in the ground!)

Diana’s right, of course: On the Town is silly.  I don’t know if Rando and the Barrington Stage Company hoked the play up to sell it in Pittsfield (I’d never seen the musical on stage before, oddly enough, just the bowdlerized movie), but there are some obvious insertions.  (This production has a racially mixed cast, but that turns out not to be a 21st-century innovation: the 1944 Broadway staging included African-American performers and Ivy was played by Japanese-American dancer Sono Osato.)  Director Rando indulged the urge to tweak the script and score with “additional material” supplied by playwrights Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins which sometimes calls attention to itself.  A running gag throughout the show, for example, is the same two women (Flossie and her Friend)—in the subway, on the street, in an elevator—whom we overhear in mid-conversation.  Flossie’s obviously having an affair with her boss, Mr. Godolphin.  At Carnegie Hall, we see two men entering one of the rehearsal rooms—and they’re having the same conversation about Mr. Godolphin, clearly a bit of re-casting for the present day that’s not likely to have occurred in 1944.  But, as I’ve admitted many times on ROT, I have nearly no critical distance when it comes to these old-time musicals, so little of this detracted from my enjoyment. 

So there’s little point in discussing the book—it’s no more than a vehicle for the songs and performances.  It’s probably worth noting that Bernstein’s music, though substantial and lovely, produced only one iconic song, “New York, New York.”  As befits a play derived from a ballet, however, almost all the songs are dance numbers, and the execution of both the singing and the dancing, including the choreography of Joshua Bergasse, was almost universally superb.  Bergasse, best known as the choreographer for the TV series Smash (2012–2013), is also certified by the Jerome Robbins Foundation for whom he teaches the dances in another Bernstein-Robbins collaboration, West Side Story.  He seems to have set about to spiff up Robbins’s original choreography for On the Town (which only survives as fragments), drawing on the character of Robbins’s work rather than reinventing it entirely.  (I may not have seen On the Town on stage before, but I have seen Robbins’s theater work, including 1989’s Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.)  His work and that of his dancers is sprightly and acrobatics-packed (for the most part—the exception is “Imaginary Coney Island,” Chip’s dream about meeting Ivy after having lost her earlier, which is romantic and heartfelt).  Bergasse was nominated for the Best Choreography Tony and the Outstanding Choreography Drama Desk Award for 2015.

Some reviewers back in October complained that Rando’s pacing was haphazard and uneven.  I didn’t find that, and maybe over the ensuing eight months, the performance has evened out in the huge Broadway theater it now occupies (the Lyric, at 1,930 seats, is the second largest house on Broadway), acquiring its rhythm.  The director has managed to take what Ben Brantley called in the New York Timesa seemingly limp 1944 artifact,” and breathe vibrant, delightful, silly life back into it.  (Rando was a 2015 nominee for the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical.)

The six principal performers, Clyde Alves (Ozzie), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Chip), Tony Yazbeck (Gabey), Megan Fairchild (Ivy), Alysha Umphress (Hildy), and Elizabeth Stanley (Claire), each do outstanding work in the voice and footwork departments, establishing their own styles and personalities even when dancing and singing in pairs and groups.  (Johnson has a flair for physical comedy, especially visible in his wild ride in Hildy’s cab.)  They all sing wonderfully, and each actor has his or her unique delivery style, with particular emphasis on Stanley’s Claire.  (The singing is marred to an extent by the miking, which flattens everything out and makes it hard to determine where a voice on stage is coming from.  I’m sure it’s easier on the singers, but, as I’ve said before, I still wish the theater’d go back to the way they did it before amplification became the norm.)  Fairchild is a principal ballerina with the New York City Ballet, but the others are all theater and Broadway vets who here simply validate their chops as musical theater up-and-comers.  Fairchild makes an impressive début—she’s the only one of the main six who wasn’t in the BSC production and this is her first performance outside the ballet world—and she won the 2015 Theatre World Award for her role in On the Town.  Overall, and I don’t intend this as faint praise, the whole ensemble is charming and delightful, particularly in fulfilling their main purpose: delivering fun.  (Yazbeck was nominated for the 2015 Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical and Stanley was a nominee for the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.) 

Beyond these, some wonderful characterizations are salted through the production, including Jackie Hoffman’s portrayal of Maude P. Dilly, Ivy’s dipso voice teacher at Carnegie Hall (Hoffman plays a number of other old biddies, each a gem of a comic turn); Michael Rupert’s Pitkin W. Bridgework, the over-indulgent fiancé of Claire de Loone; Lucy Schmeeler, Hildy’s rheumy roommate as played by Allison Guinn; and Jess LaProtto, who plays S. Uperman (that’s right!), Hildy’s dyspeptic taxi-company boss.  These are essentially vaudeville blackout performances (lest we forget that Comden and Green started with short comedy sketches), but they’re wonderfully eccentric and perfectly presented.  (The timing by this cast is universally flawless.  If there’s laugh to be had, even a cheap one, they find it.)  I must make one special acknowledgement, to Nicholas Ward as the dock worker who sings the real opening number (before “New York, New York”), “I Feel Like I’m Not Out of Bed Yet”: his deep, rich baritone is awfully reminiscent of Paul Robson, with the same soul and heart I hear on recordings of Robson’s “Old Man River.”  A gorgeous rendition of the longing to stay home with his woman and baby in his warm bed, rather than face the pre-dawn cold and hard labor of dock work. 

The sets (Boritt), costumes (Jess Goldstein), and lighting (Jason Lyons) all add immensely to the bright fantasy that is On the Town’s New York City.  Boritt’s skeletal scenery, like the drawings in an expressionistic comic book (sorry, graphic novel), are augmented by his whimsical, flashing projections of the skyline (especially as seen from Brooklyn), looming streetscape (whizzing past as Hildy careens around the city “from Yonkers on down to the Bay” with Chip), Coney Island (the setting for that dream ballet) and Times Square (another ballet milieu), and much more.  Lit by Lyons, the stage of the Lyric can’t be mistaken for any real New York City, but the one in the fantasies of all who don’t actually live here (and some who do, I’m sure)—the one evoked by the iconic song nearly everyone thinks of in connection with the city where “no one lives on account of the pace.”  Goldstein’s costumes just as strongly suggest the different kinds of “Manhattan women” (and a few men, too) the boys meet during their one-day liberty.  And then there are those Navy whites!  I’ve always found it funny when dancers are dressed as swabbies—maybe it’s the bellbottoms that wiggle and flap or the middy blouses that ride up and the neckerchiefs that flop around—and On the Town makes terrific use of this phenomenon. 

There was lots of press on this production—including out-of-town papers like the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune—which I suppose isn’t surprising given its iconic status in the world of musical theater.  The reviews were generally on the same wavelength for the most part, although there was some disagreement about the effectiveness of Boritt’s sets as well as Rando’s directing—and about half the notices panned Jackie Hoffman’s comedy and half lauded it to the skies.  (One thing upon which everybody but one journalist agreed was the marvelous performance given by Megan Fairchild in her first speaking role and Broadway début.)  

In the New York Post, Elisabeth Vincentelli called On the Town “Leonard Bernstein’s joyous musical” and observed that “Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s book and lyrics still crackle and pop after all these decades.”  She complained, however, that since On the Town is “already written funny, . . . director John Rando’s frantic oversell can feel a little desperate.”  Further, “It’s also hard to get past Beowulf Boritt’s pedestrian, pastel-colored set and his eyesore projections, which do little to bring the ’40s to life,” said the NYP reviewer.  “But that can’t dim the glittering gem that is ‘On the Town,’ with its delirious, high-energy score, which seamlessly incorporates Tin Pan Alley, boogie woogie and even a Brecht-Weill pastiche.”  Vincentelli, however, reserved special praise for “[t]he show’s golden asset,” Megan Fairchild, who’s “graceful and strikes breathtakingly beautiful lines.”  Pronounced Vincentelli ,“The show explodes with unfettered joy every time she’s onstage.”

Declaring On the Town “a show about sex that you can take the whole family to,” the New York Times’ Ben Brantley called the production at the Lyric a “jubilant revival” and a “merry mating dance” that “feels as fresh as first sunlight.”  The Timesman went on to say, “If there’s a leer hovering over ‘On the Town,’ . . . it’s the leer of an angel.”  In his rave review of the revival, Brantley had high praise for all the actor-singer-dancers, including the supporting cast, as well as the designers, choreographer, orchestra, and director.  (Music director James Moore, conducting a 28-piece orchestra, used the original 1944 arrangements for the score.)  Characterizing On the Town as “fizzy and frisky” in the Daily News, Joe Dziemianowicz said that not only do the play’s sailors “get lucky,” but “[t]he audience does, too.”  The show “feels like a big, juicy kiss,” Dziemianowicz wrote.  The director, said the Newsman, “mines the script for all its boisterous humor and smartly makes space for hushed interludes” and he also praised the entire company collectively and individually, noting, “The look of the show is chipper and bright.”  Dziemianowicz did cavil about Boritt’s set designs, describing them as “head-scratchers”: “Set pieces add modern flourishes but overdo the cartoonishness. That includes clear plastic skyscrapers and a lemon-yellow T. rex.”  “Even so,” the News review-writer concluded, “it’s a helluva entertainment.”

“When did you last see a big-budget musical that made you want to shout with joy?” asked Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal.  Then he announced that On the Town “is everything a great show should be,” adding that “anyone who isn’t thrilled by this tinglingly well-staged production needs a heart transplant.”  Nonetheless, Teachout admonished readers that On the Town “is far more than a piece of fancy fluff, and while John Rando, the director, is a recognized master of comic timing who could make a funeral funny, he never skimps on warmth.  Neither does his cast . . . .”  Heaping plaudits on the designers, music director, and ensemble, the WSJ reviewer instructed readers, “I urge you to see it as soon as you possibly can.”  USA Today’s Elysa Gardner warned us that the director, choreographer, and music director “have mined the show . . . for all its raw poignance, without sacrificing any of its jazzy wit or exuberant romanticism,” resulting in a show “that will leave you both exhilarated and haunted.”  “The superb cast has great fun,” reported Gardner, but admonished us, “Great musical theater doesnt require total escapism, after all, any more than unconditional happy endings,” referring to the touchingly sad finale, “Some Other Time,” when the squids and their new-found girlfriends say goodbye shipside, knowing they may never see each other again—as the boys go off to war.

In the Financial Times, Brendan Lemon called the production a “joyous, amusing revival” in which “sailors on shore leave have never seemed so deliriously horny.”  Linda Winer of Long Island’s Newsday described this On the Town as an “altogether loving, good-humored, skimpy-looking but imaginative frolic”  that “just is a breezy, peppy, pleasantly libidinous valentine to New York-New York.”  Winer, like several other reviewers, lamented the lack of reference to the fighting of World War II (they all seem to forget that, my comment above aside, this was intended in 1944 to be escapist theater from that very concern), scolded Jackie Hoffman for “overdoing four comic cameos” (including Maude P. Dilly), complained that “the two big ballet scenes don't build into more than serviceable pastiche,” and took director Rando to task because he “doesn't delineate Gabey's two pals . . . enough.”  Winer concluded that On the Town “needs a throat-catching sense of the world outside to make it more than diverting.”

Rex Reed stated in the New York Observer, in one of the only truly negative notices, “The latest (and best) in a long line of mostly second-rate Broadway revivals . . . brings back all the songs from the original 1944 stage production . . . .  But the star wattage [of the 1949 film] stayed home . . . .”  The gifted actors, Reed added, “erase no golden memories of MGM magic.”  Complaining that Yazbeck, for all his obvious talent, is “no Gene Kelly,” Reed persisted in comparing the 2014 Broadway revival to the Bernstein-less MGM flick; even the shipmates’ three dates “couldn’t fill Vera-Ellen’s  toe shoes . . .  can’t carry Ann Miller’s tap shoes . . . [or] lacks the endearing charm and comic timing of Betty Garrett.”  (Those would be the movie’s Ivy, Claire, and Hildy.)  The Observinator went on to dub the revival “a very good summer stock production,” adding that “what it does best . . . is serve as a reminder of what a monumental job . . . the MGM geniuses . . . did . . .,” explaining, “They knew how to edit, condense and shape, achieving the kind of sizzling momentum the current (uneven) On the Town often misses.”  Reed summed up with: “You won’t be bored by all the gridlock in On the Town, but there’s so much of it!  And it’s entirely too long for its own good.”  (Oh, and Reed was the sole writer to pan Fairchild’s Miss Turnstiles, declaring that “she can’t act, and on the rare occasions when she does speak, her articulation is full of rocks.”)

In New York, Jesse Green described On the Town as “a heartbreakingly youthful work: both about youth and by youth” (Comden, Green, Bernstein, and Robbins’s average age when they created the musical was 27!); the “crowd-pleaser” revival is “as big and breakneck and beautiful as ever.”  Green complained of some “insufferable missteps” that carried over from the original to the revival, such as a “plot [that] is somewhat random” and “the effortfully silly character names” (Chip Offenblock, Claire de Loone, Pitkin W. Bridgework), but the play “triumphs over” them.  Green also affirmed that “the musical aspects of the revival . . . are first-rate,” praising both the singers and the orchestra.  He does quibble with some aspects of Boritt’s scenic design and projections, and even some of the principal acting and Rando’s insertion of “shtick” in both the songs and dances, which “begins to suggest that director John Rando does not trust the material.”  In the end, though, the man from New York urged: “If for no other reason than Some Other Time—and there really are plenty—get yourself, by warship or taxi, to On the Town.”

In the New Yorker, Robert Gottlieb used most of his review to compare the new On the Town, not to the movie (for doing which he took Rex Reed to task) but to the original 1944 première, which he says he saw when he was 14.  He spent about half his column describing his youthful experience of that surprising event, then, disparaging the reviews of Reed and Ben Brantley, who’s report made him “prepared to loathe” the revival, until “the wonderful songs started turning up, and the very capable dancing”—of which he caviled “there may be a little too much.”  The 2014 production, “a big, brassy spectacle worthy of Vegas,” Gottlieb reported, “is a lot of fun on its own terms.”  The New Yorker review-writer asserted, despite some “longueurs,” that “there are high spots” as well.  Compared to the “touch of amateurism” in the original, in the revival “there isn’t a moment of anything but slick professionalism, but there are worse crimes.”  Gottlieb concluded, “This is the ‘On the Town’ that can make it in today’s showbiz, and I’m glad that today’s audience is eating it up and restoring it to its proper place in the pantheon.”

Acknowledging that out of On the Town’s “paper-thin premise, the original collaborators spun loopy magic,” the Village Voice’s Jacob Gallagher-Ross declared, “And director John Rando’s new production delivers the goods: . . . the gushing effervescence of just-uncorked Champagne.”  “It’s a confection, but a delightful one,” Gallagher-Ross affirmed, and he advised, “Somewhere inside every jaded New Yorker, there’s an awestruck, aw-shucks sailor, still besotted by the city and crying for some shore leave.  So indulge your inner rube and take in the new revival of On the Town, an evergreen entertainment whose brash charms have not faded with time. . . .  They don’t make musicals like this anymore, and you’ll leave wishing that they did.”   

In the entertainment press, Adam Feldman of Time Out New York, delivered his “Bottom Line”: the On the Town revival is a “major production of a fairly minor work,” which he said “seems a bit like a well-mounted exhibit at some Natural History Museum of Broadway: a stuffed lark.”  The man from TONY found that, “though frisky and enjoyable” and the company does “their best to deliver a night of re-creationist recreation,” the play “does not have the strongest legs.”  In Entertainment Weekly, Thom Geier called the revival “spirited and surprisingly frank,” but sadly quipped, “The Bronx may be up, as the song goes, but the battery sometimes runs down on this production—which only occasionally hits the ebullient heights of the Empire State Building.”  Calling the On the Town revival “still a helluva show,” Marilyn Stasio said in Variety that director Rando “has given the kid-glove treatment” to the production, while Bergasse’s choreography is “classic in design and elegant in form” and “although the young and vital cast is light on acting chops, the dancing is sensational.”  Stasio, however, thought that “the show’s comic elements are much giddier than they need to be,” but “that must have seemed like the safest way to go with the show, given the limited acting range of some key players.”  “But who’s going to go to the mat on that,” the Variety reviewer added, when the “lyrics alone are enough to make any old grouch break out in a grin,” and “the sheer exuberance of the music (God bless that orchestra) gives wing to the ecstatic joy of the dance.”  David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter dubbed the “vibrant Broadway revival” of On the Town “transporting entertainment” in which director Rando “embraces both the strengths and weaknesses.”  Rando, wrote Rooney, “is unapologetic in presenting the old-fashioned material at face value,” directing “with a mostly light touch.”  The HR review-writer ended by declaring that in this “beguiling” revival, “there’s ample pleasure on offer.” 

The cyber press came to mostly the same conclusions about this production of On the Town.  David Gordon observed on TheaterMania, “Bigger isn’t always better,” complaining that the small, human staging at BSC had grown outsized, “pushing the humor to the furthest reaches of the third balcony of this massive house.”  On the other hand, however, the TM reviewer added, “there are six central performances so exceptional that they make up for said deficiencies.”  Gordon warned, “As funny as On the Town is, it is also sneakily poignant, resting on an emotional transparency that here is only apparent in fits and starts” and “the cast members fall too often into easy laughs that are more distracting than they are funny.”  The on-line review-writer ended with, “But we should be thankful no matter what,” even though “[w]ith a little more faith in the material and a little less desire to push for laughs, Rando would have a perfectly calibrated production on his hands.”  On CurtainUp, Elyse Sommer found the Broadway revival of On the Town, like its Pittsfield predecessor, “a wonderfully performed and staged musical,” only the new incarnation is “bigger and more Broadway-ish.”  With praise for all the artists, performing, design, and directorial, of the new mounting, Sommer concluded, “For a night on the town, with unforgettable numbers like the moving ‘Lonely Town’ with its dreamy dancing you can’t beat this On the Town for old fashioned fun, glorious music and breathtaking dancing.”

New York Theatre Guide’s Casey Curtis quipped, “There is a candy store in the lobby of the Lyric Theatre.  It serves beautifully displayed and wrapped sweets.  This is exactly what you should expect inside the Lyric Theatre as well when you see ‘On The Town.’”  Curtis explained that the “show is a feast for the eyes and ears, a beautifully wrapped sweet,” but warned that “the sugar rush leads to a bit of a crash as the plot is thin as cellophane; “nonetheless,” the NYTG reviewer concluded, “this is a high quality confection.”  Director Rando, Curtis affirmed, “impressively finds comedy at every turn”; Boritt’s designs “are delightful,” and choreographer Bergasse “stages one superb dance number after another.”  “Candy is not nutritious,” the cyber reviewer summed up, “but there is a reason we love it—it makes us feel good.  ‘On the Town’ will make you laugh and bring delight . . . .”  On Talkin’ Broadway, Matthew Murray called On the Town, “a swanked-up” revival that’s been “choreographed to a frothy fare-thee-well.”  Even though “this is hardly the best imaginable mounting of this show,” Murray felt that “it comes close enough to be worth a trip.”  Most important, the characters “have and reveal fun, which is all that On the Town really has on its mind,” which makes the play “simply put, what musical theatre should be.”  Murray found, however, that “flaws begin to creep in—not big ones, mind you, but lesser problems that, after a while, add up.”  He named the erratic direction, the production’s inconsistent energy, and the uneven cast as well as Rando’s “urge to implement minor tweaks to the script and score.”  Murray’s final assessment, though, is that “when it’s allowed to be itself, in all its glittering ’40s glory, there’s no greater show—or time machine—in town.”  Steven Suskin of the Huffington Post reported of On the Town that “this romp of a spree is cookin’ with gas” and the spirit of the four creators remains “in sparkling shape.”  Rando and Bergasse, Suskin asserted, “have precisely the right touch” and the revival “hits the jackpot” with the six principal actors.  The BSC-derived revival of On the Town, summed up Suskin, “is a dandy singing & dancing spree.” 

1 comment:

  1. The producers of 'On the Town' have announced that the musical will end its Broadway run at the Lyric Theatre on Sunday, 6 September. For the final two weeks, starting on 25 August, the role of Ivy Smith, "Miss Turnstiles," will be played by another ballet star, Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.