Imagine my surprise! To be thoroughly delighted, enraptured even, by a musical I always had a “meh” attitude towards previously. I had seen “On the Town” over and over in its’ many iterations and on film, too, and it had never turned my buttons. But THIS revival of “On the Town” pressed all of them, surprisingly and with joyous delight. Quelle Surprise! And why is this “On the Town” different from all the others?
The main answer I have to deduce is to give all the credit to its’ talented Tony nominated director John Rando. He, of “Urinetown”, has really gone over the moon and captured it with his buoyant, light-as-air, but just-right re-interpretation. Rando and choreographer Joshua Bergasse have put the sauce (as in saucy) and the sex(see above picture^) back into “On the Town” making it as fresh and redolent as a Spring daisy.
I do think that that is what has been missing from all the other “On the Towns” I’ve ever had to sit through and go “What’s the fuss?” Well, the fuss started in 1944, right smack dab in the middle of WWII, when its’ three one-day-only shore-leave sailors burst off their battleship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and onto the streets and subways of New York singing “New York, New York! It’s a helluva town! The Bronx is Up and the Battery’s down! The people ride in a hole in the ground!”
And in 1944, there also burst on to the Broadway scene, one of the most talented quartets the Great White Way was ever going to see, composer Leonard Bernstein, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and lyricist/librettists Betty Comden and Adolph Green. And what an explosion of talent that must’ve seemed to war-weary New Yorkers, who were seeing their city celebrated in the most joyful way imaginable.
And Comden and Green were IN it, too! As the loopy anthropologist Claire de Loone(oy) and her mug of a tar.Ozzie, here essayed marvelously by Drama Desk Nominee Elizabeth Stanley and Clyde Alves. Stanley gets to show her considerable comic vocal chops in Act I’s “Carried Away” and her dramatic vocal ease in Act II’s “Some Other Time.” This is the part Betty Comden played originally. While her counterpart cohort, goofball Ozzie, was originally Adolph Green himself.
What a show that must’ve been! In 1944. But this “On the Town” seems to be just a good if not better. And did I mention they have an UNCOVERED 28 piece orchestra? One of the biggest I’ve ever heard on Broadway and they played Berntein’s classical score magnificently, dreamily. I never wanted them to stop!
Hunky Tony Yazbeck, nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, works himself (and the audience) into a sweat with “New York, New York”,”Gabey’s Coming”, “I’m So Lucky To Be Me” as well as dancing all the pas de deux ballet breaks (and there are many), then breaking your heart with “Lonely Town.” A star is truly born here. Gene Kelly played the part in the movie and Yazbeck obliterates his memory
His(Gaby)’s story drives the plot as he searches for his subway poster dream girl “Miss Turnstiles.” He finds his mythical Ivy Smith, here embodied by real life Ballerina turned Broadway star Megan Fairchild in a singing class led by the redoubtable (and hilarious).Jackie Hoffman, who is a comic drunk for the ages.
Completing the trio of star tars is the thumpingly innocent farm boy Chip, (Jay Armstrong Johnson) who with his 10-year-old, out-of-date New York visitors guide falls into the clutches of lady cab driver from Mars Hildy Esterhazy. And the hefty Hildy (Alysha Umphress) literally kid-naps (or in this case cab-naps) the virginal Chip into one of the most hysterical New York taxi-rides ever seen, aided and abetted by Beowulf Boritt’s masterful back-projections. Chip doesn’t stand a chance.as Hildy exults “Come Up to My Place” adding “I Can Cook Too” to great comic effect.
So, as a Native New Yorker myself, I was blown away and elated by this rainbow-of-a-valentine to My Fair City. SEE IT! New York, New York Is a Helluva Town!