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On the Town


skynyc
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Tired so I will make this short...

 

This delightful new revival is a great way to kick off the Musicals of the Fall season. The primary cast is winning, the secondary cast is delicious, and the ensemble is working their asses off...and their dressers are working even harder.

 

Costumes are great...yes, white sailor pants make great watching.

 

Use of projections is clever without being kitschy. The simple sets clear easily to leave the stage open for wonderful dancing. Joshua Bergasse's choreography pays wonderful homage to Robbins yet makes a clear personal statement as well. I will be humming this score for a week...and imagining myself able to dance to it.

 

Twenty pieces in the orchestra...I think that makes it the largest on Broadway right now. And you can really feel it.

 

This came up for a quick moment on tdf, so I paid $45, and had a very nice seat in the second row of the dress circle, (mezzanine). It's a large house, and while the seats were fine, I look forward to seeing it again. I will take the discount coupon to the box office tomorrow to get orchestra seats as close as I can.

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Actually, I think it's a pit of 28. And for those astoundingly wonderful dance arrangements, thank god the producers realize the show really needs that full orchestra.

 

I saw an online clip (rehearsal footage) of Umphress (and Johnson) doing what I consider the worst rendition of "I Can Cook Too" that I've ever heard, no exaggeration. (This show is near and dear to my heart - I've been involved in 4 productions of it over the years, so yes, I'm very close to the material). Completely turned me off to the idea of seeing the show, unfortunately. I'm going to be in NYC one weekend in November, and was hoping to catch this, but I'm probably going to see "Gentlemen's Guide" instead. I'll still think about it, but as thrilled as I am to see this show back on Broadway (unfortunately it has a history of not doing well at all in revivals), I also just can't face seeing the score crucified like that.

 

Sorry to be a downer. Maybe Umphress has toned it down by this point, and has decided to sing the song that Bernstein actually wrote???? I'm suspicious...

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I saw the show last night and thought it was a very entertaining production. Of course, its hard to overcome the impact of the original film with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller and Vera Ellen. I'm not sure but I cannot recall seeing a previous stage production.

Although there are no "above title" stars in this production the cast provides the right amount of talent and energy. I always gauge the audience reaction and the crowd was applauding and cheering throughout the show. A rousing standing O at the curtain call.

And sorry to say Bostonman, I have to disagree. I found Alysha Humphress to be one of the shining actors in this ensemble and her singing was terrific. Of course, she has one of the better roles in the production and the funniest lines.

The guys were hot and handsome in their navy whites and the choreography great. The ballet Pax de Deux in Act Two was a standout number and fit Megan Fairchild (of the NYCB) to a tee.

For me, it was Jackie Hoffman who kinda annoyed me.

A very entertaining evening. I saw it on a TDF ticket, orchestra seat, so well worth the discounted price.

 

Now for one of those "moments" in the theater...an older Soprano looking guy and his date/wife showed up, with champagne, and proceeded to their seats just to the left in front of us. She was wearing a huge black hat, which she never took off. About fifteen minutes into the first act she nodded off. OK, quiet is good and since we were not in front of her I couldn't have cared less what was on her head. It was when she awoke, took out her iPhone and proceeded to text that my seatmate quietly leaned over and asked her to turn it off as it was distracting. The boyfriend/husband said "Its an emergency." That's when my big mouth took over and I said to him "Then take it outside!" I think by this point the girlfriend/wife must have been bored because they got up and left but not before the boyfriend gave me a big "Fu*k You." I replied in kind!!! Morons! We are surrounded by morons!! I was pleased when, at intermission, the two elderly gentlemen next to me said "Thank you for saying something about the iPhone." "We agreed with you."

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My main problem with what I heard from Umphress was her vocal style - not 1944 at all - too much contemporary "American Idol"-style riffing, etc. And too many made-up notes. Including, if she still does it, a completely stupid interpolated belt-y higher D when she sings the line about "I even belt a high C" - it's not only not the right note (so why put the added note in if it can't be the right one, which wouldn't work either), but it's the wrong octave - what Comden and Green were implying by "high C" is the note that Claire sings/screams at the end of "Carried Away" - a SOPRANO high C. (So again, why throw the changed note in when it's not even the right kind of high note?) Also, though I did think some of the staging for the two of them was cute and fun, he was tending to mug his way through it all - and Rando should be shot for the "masturbation" moment when she sings "My Crisco's as deep as a pool." Totally unnecessary. Hildy may be aggressive, but she shouldn't be played as crass. That's crossing the line, and doesn't fit in the tone of what Bernstein, Comden and Green wrote.

 

Maybe the rest of the show respects what the original writers (especially Bernstein) wrote. And maybe Umphress is funny in general. (And god, I hope she doesn't screw around with "Some Other Time," one of the most poignant numbers in the show, when you consider that these 2 couples are really saying goodbye forever - the sailors will be back on the ship in a few hours - and there is a war going on - and the girls will have to return to their own lives. Musical comedy or not, the chances are very good that these characters will never see each other again.)

 

I really do still want to see the show. I just want to know that the material is being respected and celebrated - not lampooned (which is too easy to do with this kind of a show, and I feel Umphress and Johnson - and Rando and musical director Moore - have fallen right into that trap). Maybe I'll go to the restroom during "I Can Cook Too"? :eek:

 

Sorry about your encounter with those idiots in the audience. Yuck.

 

The film version, of course, changed A LOT of the material, both script-wise and especially musically (MGM thought Bernstein's score too "highbrow" - Roger Edens' replacement songs are pleasant tunes, but not on par with the originals IMO). Even the dance music was reworked, using much of Bernstein's musical motives and ideas, but it's kind of like someone took the score, threw the pages all over the place, picked them up randomly, and rescored the piece according to what they picked up. Odd.

 

I am curious to know - does the final section of the dream ballet pas de deux (the "Imaginary Coney Island" sequence) keep Robbins' original idea of a dream-like boxing match between Ivy and Gabey? Such an odd concept, but I've seen it done effectively before. Last production I did of the show, the choreographer came up with another idea because the director didn't want the image, even if dream-like, of a man and a woman hitting each other. In this day and age (and especially right now), that's understandable. But I'm kinda hoping this production tries to honor what Robbins was going for.

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Bostonman, you are obviously very attached to this show and have a "more-than-average" critical view of it, but good for you. It shows your intelligence and recognition of talent. I, too, have been in your shoes with shows that failed me greatly because they did not live up to my vision and personal attachment. (I am currently eyeing one that is in pre-production in London, for which if it hits the West End, I'll go over and take a look next year). That said, I'm sure the general audience won't know the difference between a '40's version and a contemporary interpretation of a show tune. We'll see what "Ben-ita" has to say ...LOL.

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I agree that Umphress was a highpoint. I heard every lyric. But honestly, during I Can Cook Too, I was too busy watching Jay Armstrong Johnson.

And yes, they do keep the boxing ring.

 

But I also think Gentleman's Guide is very worthy, and probably safest to preserve your memories of On the Town.

 

I do agree that this show is hard to do...and the revivals aren't often successful, but this one does seem to avoid the lampoon.

And Some Other Time is beautifully done with a charming effect that was lovely.

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I agree that Umphress was a highpoint. I heard every lyric. But honestly, during I Can Cook Too, I was too busy watching Jay Armstrong Johnson.

And yes, they do keep the boxing ring.

 

But I also think Gentleman's Guide is very worthy, and probably safest to preserve your memories of On the Town.

 

I do agree that this show is hard to do...and the revivals aren't often successful, but this one does seem to avoid the lampoon.

And Some Other Time is beautifully done with a charming effect that was lovely.

 

Well, I do admit that I might be a bit hasty to judge the whole production based on one number. And maybe that number has toned down since the rehearsal footage I saw (where, to me, Johnson was doing a great job of high school style mugging). And I'm usually not so cranky about new productions of shows I'm close to. Just something about that rehearsal clip really offended me.

 

It seems to me that regional theatres might have a better time with this show than Broadway - no matter the production quality, none of the revival attempts on Broadway have been particularly successful at all. Which is a shame because the show really deserves and needs a Broadway-sized stage and orchestra - something most regional theatres can't provide. But of course this new production originated from a successful run in the Berkshires, and I was involved in a Boston production at just about the same time, which was also a successful run. I'm not quite sure why Broadway hasn't been a more welcoming venue. But believe me, whether I like this production or not, I do hope it's a good run.

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Ok - so I've just been reading on one of the Broadway chat boards that the intermission for On The Town is running longer than average, because people are now being allowed to order food from a menu placed at their seats (supposedly drinks, snacks, and ice cream) and have the food delivered to them. Really?

 

Unfortunately, just another reason why I'm not exactly getting excited to see this show...

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  • 3 weeks later...

According to a good friend I am posting this before I leave for UCLA.

It was thumbs up everywhere for On the Town, as the rave reviews came in today following last night's opening. Ben Brantley of the NY Times is not known for gushing over a show, but gush he did in today's review, saying:

 

"On the contrary, this merry mating dance of a musical feels as fresh as first sunlight as it considers the urgent quest of three sailors to find girls and get, uh, lucky before their 24-hour shore leave is over. If there’s a leer hovering over “On the Town,” a seemingly limp 1944 artifact coaxed into pulsing new life by the director John Rando and the choreographer Joshua Bergasse, it’s the leer of an angel."

 

A summary of various reviews can be found here: http://www.didhelikeit.com/shows/on-the-town.html

 

Friends of mine who saw the show in New York were ecstatic on how good it is. One is planning to take it in again. "It's the sexiest on the town you can imagine for a Broadway show. The three leads do one number in their underpants, and it is clear that they are on the town to get laid.

 

The number of sexy men in the ensemble was also commented upon, with Christoper Vo getting the most positive remarks.

 

Christopher Vo

http://blog.rateyourburn.com/blog/Uploads/christopher-vo-z-club-ny-zumba-class.jpg

 

If you are a butt lover, then On The Town should be number one on your list. If you are a theater lover, well, then just go!

 

For those of us who can't go, here's a cute video the three leads did to promote it:

SALUTING THE MEN AND WOMEN OF OUR ARMED FORCES

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I don't know what show everyone is raving about. Saw On the Town last night and was less than impressed. It was one big cartoon with the most mugging I have ever seen on Broadway! Should have left at intermission, but decided it couldn't get worse. It did!

 

A little 'cuteness' from the cast is acceptable. Constant "look how cute I am!" is grating.

 

There were spots of brilliance imho. The taxi ride was fun and incredibly well done. The costumes and sets were equally well done. A great orchestra. The cast, for me, was a total turn off with the exception of "Hildy." No shading of character, no variance of performance and too much mugging!!!!

 

As I said, I don't know what everyone else is seeing, but for me it was a bust.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saw this entertaining musical and agree with skynyc's review. Likeable cast, good acting, singing, and dancing. Has all the Broadway glitz. Enjoyed following their journey through "New York, New York". Handsome men in uniform are always a crowd pleaser.

 

Lively finale with a happy ending.

 

Coop

 

http://www.trbimg.com/img-54415af8/turbine/la-et-cm-on-the-town-broadway-20141017

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Saw this entertaining musical and agree with skynyc's review. Likeable cast, good acting, singing, and dancing. Has all the Broadway glitz. Enjoyed following their journey through "New York, New York". Handsome men in uniform are always a crowd pleaser.

 

Lively finale with a happy ending.

 

Coop

 

http://www.trbimg.com/img-54415af8/turbine/la-et-cm-on-the-town-broadway-20141017

 

+1

 

Sure, some over the top mugging but this is not Tennessee Williams after all, just a fun 24 hour leave for three sailors in NYC!!! The singing and dancing were just excellent. I had a great time watching the show and hearing Bernstein's music again.

 

TruHart1 :cool:

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I saw On The Town Saturday night (11/8) and am pleased to report that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I was going to, given some of the things I had heard. Yes, there are things I thought could have been done better, and/or that hit the wrong tone, but ultimately the production did what it should do - entertain, and at times, move us.

 

 

The best thing, hands down - that wonderful orchestra. I have to be honest enough to say that had this been a reduced band, or a new orchestration (as so many revivals are subjected to), I might not have such praise for the show in general. But I really feel like the sound of that full, very skilled ensemble in the pit raised the level of the entire production. Attention must be paid. And hand in hand with that goes my feeling that the sound design (at least from my seat in the back of the orchestra section) was handled tastefully - nothing sounded overamplified, either stage or pit. Even more attention must be paid. This is how to do it, folks.

 

 

I've heard plenty of complaints about the set. No, it certainly didn't speak to the period of the show, and the moving projections felt more like some odd video game to me than anything else - but in general, I accepted the nature of the design as something that could have been dreamed up by 3 sailors who have never seen the real NYC before. Not in 1944, true - but still, something in the realm of fantasy, to complement their odd whirlwind 24 hour adventure. There were moments where I thought there were some bad choices - the awkward rewrite of the "Quasimodo" bit in the museum scene due to the fact that there was no real statue for Ozzie to stand next to, and the transition out of "I Can Cook" that (by nature of the scene change) ended with a shirtless Chip making out with Hildy in the middle of Times Square (if one looked at the moment literally) - but for the most part I thought it all worked.

 

 

(By the way - has anyone else wondered about references to Guys And Dolls thrown in for no real reason? In the first street scene we saw Wanamakers and Saks and...well, Macy's...and later one of the girls in the "So Long Baby" number was referred to as Adelaide. Huh? Why?)

 

 

Yes, there was terrible mugging - and too much of it. Philip Boykin (featured roles) did some very nice work, but overdid the opening solo and was absolutely horrid with his take on the Miss Turnstiles announcer. He got better as the show went on. Alysha Umphress (Hildy) was much more reigned in than I expected (I wound up liking her quite a bit, to be honest), but Jay Armstrong Johnson's (Chip) constant clown act is in bad taste. (I do wish they hadn't let Umphress scat sing, however. Especially in that encore tag of "Ya Got Me." Too masturbatory, IMO.) Jackie Hoffman (Madame Dilly/Old Lady/Nightclub singer) didn't seem to play one honest moment all night, IMO - it was like she was doing her own show in the middle of someone's production of On The Town, and I only occasionally found her truly funny. Elizabeth Stanley (Claire) was mostly very fine, but I thought the accent (whatever it was) was unnecessary and called too much attention to itself. But it WAS nice to see Stephen deRosa, Michael Rupert (Pitkin) and Allison Guinn (Lucy) all trying to stay honest in their character roles - and because of that, they all turned in some very funny moments. They let the MATERIAL be funny, instead of trying so hard to show the audience how funny THEY were. Clyde Alves (Ozzie) was very strong, Tony Yazbeck (Gabey) was a real delight, and I enjoyed Megan Fairchild's Ivy Smith (except, again, for the awful way-over-the-top moment where she threw the tantrum about her month at Miss Turnstiles being over. I'm sorry, but what the fuck was that?)

 

 

(Of course, I do blame much of those miscalculations on director John Rando more than the actors. I assume for the most part, the actors are doing what they've been told to do, and/or Rando has unfortunately permitted all the the schtick.)

 

 

I enjoyed the majority of the dance - the top of the tier being the Act II dream ballet (excellently conceived and excellently danced). Every now and then, in some of the dance sequences, I felt the story being told was unclear, or that it was just dance for dance's sake - but most of it was fun to watch. I thought choreographer Josh Bergasse strayed too much from the original design of the Miss Turnstiles ballet (too much time with the football team, and no "pas de sept" as marked in the score, where Ivy dances with all the varied men at once), and I thought the Times Square ballet played too much on Gabey feeling lonely and not in the mood to celebrate (especially when the nightclub sequence at at the top of Act II gives us a lot more of that). But much of the dancing worked for me. And I enjoyed takes I had never quite seen before on the "Carried Away" number (making it all truly a "dream ballet" with a sharp turn back to reality) and the Carnegie Hall dance break (the interplay with the studio doors, etc).

 

 

I'm not sure who's ultimately responsible for the small but noticeable rewrites to the choral parts, but I wish they hadn't done that. (Extra bass parts added in at least 3 places, all with diminishing returns, IMO - and though I didn't mind the men singing the end of "Do Re Do," the fun of that wonderful rideout at the end of the song is that the voices are written to hold ALL THE WAY THROUGH - but the ensemble cut off way way early.)

 

 

The changes to the script - mostly unnecessary and at times annoying. A few things worked well (Claire explaining why she's marrying Pitkin, for one). Much as I love the material in general, I do admit the original script does have some clunky moments - but I don't think they were solved here with the rewrites.

 

 

It was odd not to have a real overture, but I'm glad they got to play a slightly shortened version of said overture before Act II.

 

 

Which brings me back to, yes, my favorite memory of the production - that wonderful score (absolutely complete, save for the original Entr'acte) played by that wonderful orchestra. Bravi. ;-)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saw this last night. I was especially pleased with Jay Armstrong Johnson, who plays Chip. First saw him in the off-Broadway production of "Working" and fell in love. Saw him as "Herman" in Encores! "Most Happy Fella"- totally blew me away. And now this. The kid is awesome.

 

And Tony Yazbeck as Gabey - wow, what a bod in the boxing-ring scene!

 

This is sheer fun. Big orchestra. Great Bernstein tunes. The show is cartoonish, not serious drama, but sometimes that just hits the spot.

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  • 1 month later...

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