On The Town

This summer at the Open Air Theatre, Leonard Bernstein’s classic On the Town is getting an airing. I haven’t seen the film and I didn’t really know much about this musical, so this pleased me. Originally written in 1944, it was written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and follows a day in the life of three sailors with twenty-four hours in New York to see the sights, hit the town, and maybe fall in love.

Drama befell the production not long after it started previews. Lead Fred Haig, playing Chip, broke his ankle and was replaced by Jacob Maynard. In fact, the night I saw the production was Maynard’s first performance in the role after a day and a half of rehearsals.

None of this stopped the production being a strong, slick hymn to old-fashioned musicals, with superb choreography from Drew McOnie, who also directs. One moment I particularly liked was a moving scene between two sailors during the ‘Lonely Town’ ballet. Peter McKintosh’s set, made up of crates and boxes to reflect the shipyard, is clever, with parts that roll out and an impressive dinosaur skeleton, and his costumes are glorious, the coloured dresses of the female cast members standing out against the white of the sailors’ outfits. Howard Hudson’s lighting is simply gorgeous, particularly towards the end, as the sun sets in Regent’s Park and the musical moves towards its bittersweet conclusion.

All the principals do justice to the piece, with Danny Mac an appealing Gabey, Samuel Edwards excellent as Ozzie and Jacob Maynard a superb Chip: it certainly wasn’t obvious that this was his first performance. The leading men are matched by their female partners: Siena Kelly, Lizzy Connolly and Miriam-Teak Lee. It’s nice to see some diversity on the London stage, especially in an older musical such as this one. The ensemble as a whole do a great job, and the score is stunning, with memorable tunes including ‘New York’ and an assortment of comedic numbers as well as more serious tunes.

I loved this musical. I’m sometimes reluctant to visit the Open Air Theatre, mainly owing to the unpredictable nature of the British weather, but I was lucky enough to catch this show on a beautiful night. If you can manage to do the same, I thoroughly recommend it.

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