On The Town – Where the Bronx is Up and the Battery’s Down

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NY Theater Review Sandi Durell

 

Sit back, relax and get ready for a good ole’ fashioned BIG Broadway musical.

If you’re thinking back to the razzle dazzle of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller in the 1949 MGM movie, well, this is somewhat different, but with the all dancing, all singing all multi-talented cast of 30, under the direction of John Rando, you’ll savor every moment as three American World War II sailors get ready to seize the day in the Big Apple – all within 24 hours shore leave!

But before you can do anything, you stand in front of the American flag curtain singing “The Star Spangled Banner” to the rhythm of the 28 piece orchestra. Then it’s time to meet the 3 fresh-faced sailors looking for a good time – some sight-seeing, fun and female companionship. In the hands of expert choreographer Joshua Bergasse (Smash) at the helm, the cast is flying, kicking and on their toes, especially Tony Yazbeck (Gabey), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Chip) and Clyde Alves (Ozzie), the hot to trot sailors on the streets of New York, NY. The music of Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein will thrill you with nostalgia.

Yazbeck is a winner in the role you recall Gene Kelly played in the film – sweet, agile, energetic and graceful. No slackers here with Chip and Ozzie as Naval-mates either.

When Gabey falls for Miss Turnstyle’s photo and goes on a quest to find her, it’s a sea of laughs and mishaps that keep the cast afloat. As his buddies try to help find the elusive Ivy (lithe and lovely Megan Fairchild), Chip finds a larger than life, over-sexed cab driver Hildy (a va va voom Alysha Umphress) who takes him for the ride of his life, while Ozzie seeks help at the Museum of Natural History running into archeologist Claire De Loone (hot, sexy babe Elizabeth Stanley) where the cavemen come alive and the dinosaurs . . . soar! Love blooms on all fronts. It’s slapstick antics that buoy the cast and audience on this adventure.

Jackie Hoffman – all around funny lady, playing several incarnations, goes the limit and beyond keeping the laughs coming in her own inimitable style as Madame Dilly (the intoxicated vocal teacher), as well as a couple of sleezy club singers. Booming bass-baritone Tony nominee Phillip Boykin plays several outstanding roles, as does Stephen DeRosa, while Tony Award winner Michael Rupert is the scientific stuffy Judge Pitkin. Sneezing Lucy Schmeeler (Hildy’s roommate) is humorously played by Alllison Guinn.

You’ll be delighted hearing Hildy’s “I Can Cook Too” and hilarious “Carried Away,” Yazbeck’s romantic and melancholy “Lonely Town” (a glorious highlight), segueing into a beautiful sensual pas de deux fantasy ballet that ensues with New York City Ballet’s Fairchild. It is topped only by the Subway Ride and Imaginary Coney Island scene and dance segment. The poignant “Some Other Time” adds sadness.

Fairchild shines as a principal ballet dancer but needs some seasoning on a Broadway stage to pull off the requisite musical-comedy.

The cartoony, caricature-like set by Beowulf Boritt brings the 40s into the 21st century with shiny see-through silhouettes and projections. Jason Lyons keeps the stage all aglow with multi-colored lighting and Jess Goldstein surpasses himself with the period perfect vibrant costumes.

Rando makes full use not only of the stage but the aisles within the theater where the actors can get up close and personal.

This is an audience-pleaser for all ages and a step back in time reminding us why the musicals like “On The Town” thrilled and chilled and make us long for the Golden Age of Broadway. Don’t spend a lot of time making comparisons to the movie, just enjoy – “New York, New York” – it’s a helluva town!

“On The Town” – Lyric Theatre, West 42nd Street, NYC – running time 2 hrs. 35 min. (includes intermission)

*Photos: Joan Marcus

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