Written by Serena
For a helluva night on the town, head over to the Lyric Theatre and join three sailors on their dancing, singing, whirlwind adventure through New York!
There are so many things to love about On The Town. After seeing a free preview a few months back (courtesy of an Audience Rewards contest), Joy and I were eagerly anticipating the full show. I’m also a fan of the 1949 movie (starring Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra) and the ballet Fancy Free, so I had high expectations.
The Lyric Theatre is beautiful, clean, and spacious. We sat in the orchestra, 5th row off to the side, but in this particular theater there are good views no matter where you sit. Seats are also very comfortable with plenty of leg room. The lobby has a quaint store that sells refreshments which include bottled soda, beer, popcorn, chips, candy, etc. There is a large bathroom located in the basement and the line moves very quickly as there are a lot of stalls.
The Leonard Bernstein score soars to life with a 28-piece orchestra, led by an exuberant conductor who looks like he is having the time of his life. It begins with the Star Spangled Banner which prompts everyone in the audience to rise and sing along. The songs & lyrics are so catchy, I guarantee you will leave the theater humming “New York, New York, a helluva town…”. The music is really the heartbeat of the show – it goes from energetic and fun to soft and tender, and it tugs at every emotion in between.
With original choreography inspired by the legendary Jerome Robbins, combined with the talents of choreographer Joshua Bergasse, the dancing in this show is probably the best thing on Broadway right now. Fans of old school musicals and classic Broadway will love it. On The Town is a very dance heavy show and it shines with a spectacular ensemble and leading cast. There are lots of familiar faces in the ensemble (Jess LeProtto, Newsies; Samantha Sturm, Matilda; Cody Williams, Cinderella; and many more) and some newcomers as well (Christopher Vo, Chip Abbott, Eloise Kropp). The dance highlight for me was Tony Yazbeck (Gabey) and Megan Fairchild (Ivy Smith) in a breathtaking ballet dream sequence. Ballet is very present in this musical which is why it’s such a pleasure to have Megan, a principal Dancer from NYC Ballet, in the cast.
On the Town follows three sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in NYC, searching for love and adventure. Tony Yazbeck plays the serious, sensitive sailor Gabey, Clyde Alves is Ozzie, a happy-go-lucky, playful womanizer, while Jay Armstrong Johnson portrays Chip, the earnest and naive young kid who is trying to follow the rules. They all did a helluva job, but Jay in particular was so gosh darn cute and funny. His timing and reactions were priceless. Tony also stole my heart with his soulful ballads and dance solos.
There has been a lot of publicity surrounding Megan Fairchild’s debut because it is not common for ballet dancers to make the transition to Broadway. Having seen her perform many times at NYCB, I was anxious to see her do well. Megan was charming and adorable as Ivy Smith, but it was her dance numbers that were truly enchanting and delightful.
Alysha Umphress plays another love interest, Hildy, a sassy, brassy taxi driver, and boy can she sing! She and Elizabeth Stanley (Claire de Loone) are fantastic character actors and they have great comedic timing. In fact, On The Town is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen!
There are a lot of small characters that give the show added flavor and laughs– the whole cast is so spot on that the audience is in stitches throughout the show. Jackie Hoffman brings the house down as Madame Dilly, an annoying (and somewhat cliche), drunk singing coach.
The scenery is not as flashy and elaborate as some others shows you might see, but it does a great job of highlighting and enhancing the big musical numbers. I loved the backdrop for the museum (which has a fun surprise), and there is a musical scene which takes place in a taxi that lurches around NYC (or is it being moved by the actors?) to hilarious effect. There are actually a lot of fantastic set pieces and props used throughout the show, but it is incorporated so well that it doesn’t detract from the performance.
The costumes are also great – colorful and fun when they need to be, flashy and sparkly for the nightclub scenes, beautiful and flowy in the ballet sequences. They suited all the characters and scenes perfectly.
Some other highlights were the actors coming out into the audience, the super quick costume changes (how do they do it??), non-stop comedy with a good balance of sentimentality, the amazing cast and ensemble, and above all, the music.