'On the Town' at the Marriott Theatre
Sure, the Bronx is still up and the Battery still down (or flat, in my car's case this morning), but in the last number of "On the Town," the 1944 musical created by the incomparable collective talents of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins, the character of Claire DeLoone gets very wistful.
Along with her pals Hildy and Ivy, she has been having a good time with a sailor, a timeless symbol of the advantages of being close to port...
"Twenty-four hours can go so fast," Johanna McKenize Miller sings at the Marriott, quite beautifully. "You look around the day has passed. When you're in love, time is precious stuff; even a lifetime isn't enough."
That gorgeous Bernstein-scored song — recorded over the years by Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett — sums up the theme of "On The Town," perhaps best known as the 1949 film starring Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller, although the material in movie and the stage musical are different...
Even today, with all the workplace changes, our response to that one day off is not so typical from the wartime sailors we're watching on the stage: We pour our hearts into our time off, either burdening those few hours with so many unrealistic expectations, they cannot help but collapse into stress or, in our happiest and smartest moments, we fall into the proffered passions precisely because we know that the stakes are so high. Add in the high of visiting a great city for the first time, all too briefly, and the feeling of war that can be won, and you can get a sense of what "On the Town," which expresses most of this emotion through dance, really is all about.
...The plot (changed a lot for the movie) involves three sailors, played at the Marriott by Max Clayton, Seth Danner and Jeff Smith, all rushing (before the gate closes on them) to find a woman with whom one of their number has fallen in love, merely by looking at her picture; a "Miss Turnstiles," beauty queen of the transit authority.
Various adventures and misadventures ensue, three women eventually come to match up with the three sailors and there are colorful romantic antics at the top of the Empire State Building, at Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Anthropological History and at Coney Island, where Miss Turnstiles works as a burlesque dancer.
The show is fun and escapist — it was so right from its start in 1944 — and there is a great deal to entertain in [David] Bell's production, cast in New York and Chicago. The comedy is broad, clear and fast-moving, and the characters sharply defined, and there are an excellent pair of leads in Clayton, who plays Gabey, and Alison Jantzie, who makes a charming Ivy (Marya Grandy handles the comedy very well as Hildy). The choreography, by Alex Sanchez, is the show's strength; for it is fresh, detailed, athletic and, in several spots, narratively inspired. And it is executed with real charm by a top-rate (and admirably sensual) young ensemble of dancers. The set, as always by Thomas M. Ryan, is colorful, clever and relatively expansive; all in all, one of the best Marriott designs in quite some time.
..."On the Town," it's worth emphasizing further, was based on an idea by Robbins and thus foregrounds choreography more than most shows of its era. And this production at the Marriott does have some terrific dance numbers...