Monday, October 27, 2014

On The Town at the Lyric Theatre

'New York, New York, it's a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun'.
New York, New York, it's a helluva town!."

If you like your Broadway musical revivals big, bright and brassy run to the Lyric Theatre.  If you were thrilled when the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific performed the score of that show with a huge orchestra, well, folks, the 70th anniversary Broadway revival of On The Town is the perfect show for you.

Opened originally in 1944, On The Town was inspired by Jerome Robbins ballet Fancy Free, one-act ballet about three sailors on leave with music by Leonard Bernstein.  Transformed into a Broadway musical the later that same year, the book and lyrics were handled by then Broadway first timers Betty Comden and Adolph Green.  The result is a charming dance-filled musical that to paraphrase the cliche, just ain't made this way anymore.

On the Town is the story of three sailors on a 24-hour leave in New York City. Chip is looking forward to seeing the sights his father saw on a visit more than a decade ago.  Ozzie just wants to get a "date." Gabey, the dreamer, wants to meet a girl just like his childhood sweetheart.  When Gabey sees on the subway a poster of the monthly winner of Miss Turnstiles, Ozzie and Chip, who owe Gabey their lives make a pact to help him find the girl of his dreams.  In the course of the day the sailors each find a girl, wreck havoc, start a city-wide chase and have a memorable day before they report back on board ship.

The Lyric Theatre is a very large venue and there was a concern that after its last oversized tenant, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, any other show would be swallowed up by the very large space. On The Town's director John Rando keeps the action bustling and bursting out of the stage almost as if On The Town just can't contain itself to the stage.  Beowulf Boritts' scenic and production design evoke a marvelous version of 1944 New York City that easily handles the vast size of the Lyric's stage. Joshua Bergasse' choreography takes full advantage of the space to create beautiful dances and ballets, particularly the "Miss Turnstiles Ballet" and the "Times Square Ballet" that fills the audience with a sense of spectacle that comes from the wonder of good theatrical ballet and pays homage to the original stylings of Jerome Robbins.

The 28-piece orchestra under the baton of musical director James Moore will have you on your feet before the curtain rises. The marvelous acting ensemble will keep you smiling the rest of the evening. There are many, many standout performances.  As was the case in the original production the role of Ivy Smith, Miss Turnstiles is performed by a ballet dancer. Megan Fairchild 's dancing is fluid and beautiful and if her acting and singing are not on the same level of her dancing, this is a gentle reminder that a lot of musicals used to not have roles written for today's triple threat performers. As her ardent admirer and chaser Gabey, Tony Yazbeck is a leading man in the mold of Gene Kelly. Clyde Alves is earthy as Ozzie, the potential caveman to comedic soprano and anthropologist Elizabeth Stanley's Claire. Jay Armstrong Johnson's adorably goofy Chip is well matched to Alysha Umphress' brassy taxi driver and "cook, too" Hildy.

While the leads are terrific they are nearly upstaged by a trio of supporting performers. Michael Ripkin as the "I Understand" fiancee of Claire, Allison Guinn as Hildy's wallflower roommate Lucy make the most of their limited stage time. Please make a game out of "is that Jackie Hoffman again?" in her myriad hilarious appearances, the most prominent one as Ivy's broke lush of a music teacher Maude P. Dilly.

On The Town is a great evening of theater that shows a 21st-century audience that the old supposed warhorses still have life in them with the right production team and ensemble of actors and dancers. If you are traveling to New York City and want to have a great time you can do no better than to visit the Lyric Theatre and follow a trio of sailors on shore leave On The Town.

On The Town is being performed at the Lyric Theatre in New York City. For tickets and other performance information please visit

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