On the Town
I love an “old fashioned musical”! I start by saying this, because many people will look at the latest offering at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, “On The Town”, Leonard Bernstein’s adaptation of his Ballet, “Fancy Free” (with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) as a “sappy” love story with dance. Oh, well! Perhaps it is a sappy love story, but it is one entertaining evening, filled with some incredible dance and gymnastics. Wow!
Directed by the always energetic David H. Bell with Choreography by Alex Sanchez, this is an incredible production that uses the small “in-the-round” stage to perfection. Even the dream sequences work! The story is about three sailors arriving in New York for 24 hours. Their mission: to see the sights and find romance. Sounds simple, right? These are not big city boys, and are amazed at what New York holds in store for them. During these two fun-filled acts, we explore the people they meet, the women they fall in love with and an assortment of odd characters. They will make you laugh , and yet when you see the sailors walk through the dock gates at the close of the play, to the words of “Some Other Time”, a chilling, yet beautiful song about warm memories and possibly meeting up again some other day, you feel a chill.
There are not a lot of songs that you will hum on the way home, but there are songs such as “New York, New York”, “Lonely Town”, and “Lucky To Be Me” to bring a smile to your face. This production is filled with ballet and this cast of youngsters is up to the creations of Sanchez and Bell. There is a movie version of this play, starring two notables. Gene Kelly (so of course a lot of dance) and a young Frank Sinatra (who somehow kept up with Kelly) and also with Jules Munshin as well as female stars, Ann Miller and Betty Garrett. This was back in 1949 and according to Marriott, there has not been a local production of this wonderful story in over 50 years. Amazing!
Let’s talk about the cast: Our three sailors, Chip (Seth Danner who does some great gymnastics along with his stylish dancing) Ozzie (deftly handled by Jeff Smith) and Gabey (Max Clayton who is a triple threat on stage). Gabey is in love (might I add, at first sight) with “Miss Turnstiles”, Ivy Smith (solidly played by the lovely Alison Jantzie), and makes his day a search for her and a date. Chip and Ozzie agree to help their lovestruck friend, and along the way, find their own adventure and love.
Ozzie ends up meeting Claire DeLoone (a very special performance by Johanna McKenzie Miller, who shows us a knack for comedy) who is engaged to Pitkin W. Bridgework (the always comical Alex Goodrich) and yet finds herself caught up in the sailor’s plight. Chip takes a cab ride (very cleverly staged) with hack Hildy (an outstanding performance by Marya Grandy, who has a knack for getting a laugh for even the smallest of gestures). Her roommate, Lucy (the comical Brandi Wooten) adds some spice to the finale as well. There are also some special features or characters of note that deserve the recognition for what they bring to the story. The always reliable Barbara Robertson as Madame Maude P. Dilly, Ivy’s voice coach, and Elizabeth Telford as several cabaret singers doing the same song is a hoot!
As I always say, the ensemble is the key to making a musical complete, and this one does a great job of song and dance as well as assist in moving set pieces on and off the arena stage. Let’s mention them: Jeff Max, Ryan Bernsten, Jordan Fife Hunt, Ellen Green, Monique Haley, Raymond Interior, Tiffany Krause, Kristina Larson-Hank, Andrew Purcell, Sam Rogers, Ian Saunders, Desiree Staples, Elizabeth Telford and Melissa Zaremba. Great work kids!
The set is simple as always, being an in-the-round theater. But, Thomas M. Ryan, a master of working in this theater, creates a feeling of each location, including the shipyard. Jesse Klug’s lighting is masterful and once again Nancy Missimi and her staff create just the right costumes for the period. Ryan T. Nelson is the Musical Director and the Marriott Orchestra is once again conducted by Patti Garwood. Sally Weiss handles the props and Robert E. Gilmartin, the sound. As always, Marriott’s productions are built to make sure that every audience member hears and sees the action on the stage.