A strong shot of Botox has been injected into this newest revival of ON THE TOWN to rid it of any wrinkles that may have appeared since its opening in 1944. Two previous revivals have not passed muster. This third revival is the charm. It is vibrant, vital and vivacious. Fresh and fast paced – with a cast that can sing and dance its heart out – right into the hearts of the audience at the cavernous, newly renamed LYRIC Theatre on 42 Street where it seems an unlikely perfect fit.
Every care has been taken from the creative team to shake off any moth ball residue. The only remnant from the original production is the rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner from the 28 piece orchestra that starts the festivities. What a treat to hear the sound of a full orchestra from the pit as it should sound for a Broadway musical.
ON THE TOWN started as a ballet by Jerome Robbins – FANCY FREE – about three sailors on a 24 hour leave in New York, New York – choreographed to the music of Leonard Bernstein. This could be a full-fledged musical Robbins thought. Enter Betty Comden and Adolph Green with their unique brand of sophistication and low brow wacky sense of humor.
The excellent result was the hit musical ON THE TOWN with its sensational expanded score by Bernstein and off the wall characters created by Comden and Green that enabled Robbins to create dances both balletic and jazzy where the search for love is most important and grounds the zany goings on.
We must thank the Barrrington Stage Company for first producing this incarnation and for the slew of producers who have lovingly brought it to the LYRIC.
Beowulf Boritt has once again contributed scenic and projection design. Minimalist but apt – allowing the large cast to dance freely and openly – air borne, jaunty and jaw dropping choreography by Joshua Bergasse who has not been intimidated by Mr. Robbins in the least, creating some of the best dance sequences in many a season. The opening number alone would be worth the price of admission – but what follows tops itself over and over – dramatically lit by Jason Lyons with imaginative costumes with a bright and stylish kaleidoscope of colors by Jess Goldstein.
The three sailors: Ozzie (Clyde Alves) Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Gabey (Tony Yazbeck) are superb – dancing magnificently within their individual characterizations and delivering strong vocals.
Gabey has seen a poster featuring with Miss Turnstiles (a dreamy Megan Fairchild) and decides to find her with the help of his buddies allowing them to explore New York’s many tourist attractions – including the Museum of Natural History where Ozzie meets Claire DeLoone (Elizabeth Stanley) who is engaged to Mr. Pitkin (Michael Rupert) a man who “understands.” Mr. Rupert gives this small role great stature. Chip from Peoria is hijacked by Hildy (Alysha Umphress) a hot to trot cab driver – their joy ride is a joy to behold. Many night clubs later they all arrive at Coney Island for a touching “Some Other Time” farewell as the three sailors head back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and off to war.
Maverick director John Rando has for better or for worse made the women more aggressive than necessary, has thrown is a few gay cameo nods and bare torsos and given free rein to the comedienne’s comedienne Jackie Hoffman. Quibbles aside this is a magnificently entertaining production that is what a true musical comedy should be and should fill the LYRIC to the rafters for a long time coming. Highly recommended.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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