A revival of Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 musical On The Town resurrected by Drew McOnie pops at the Open Air Theatre. A simple tale; three navy sailors are docked in New York City. They’ve got 24 hours before they need to leave and so, before they do, it’s time to hit the town! How ever will they spend their time? With copious amounts of singing and dancing it turns out.
Originally written in 1944 and based on a famous ballet – Fancy Free, written by Jerome Robbins – this production knows where its heart is, and definitely keeps it there. Modernising only parts of the production gives a warm nostalgic feel; something of a welcomed feeling!
Huge, expertly choreographed dance numbers are interspersed throughout in a way to seemingly change the tempo of the piece – though at times they can feel so slightly forced rather than flowing a natural narrative. However, in Act two, and expertly choreographed dream sequence featuring the entire cast looks wonderful but unfortunately feels somewhat unnecessary – almost as if it’s there to make the performance longer in length.
All-round, On The Town presents excellent casting thought. Highlights include the rendition of Carried Away by Sam Edwards [Ozzie] and Miriam-Teak Lee [Claire] that earns rapturous applause from the vocally magnificent pairing. Danny Mac, who we all last saw on Strictly Come Dancing, excels in the high-octane dance numbers, while Jacob Maynard steps in to replace a sadly injured Fred Haigh as Chip – taking the role on full time now. Once again high praise for the effort and chemistry with on-stage partner. Lizzy Connolly [Hildy] sprinkling a light hearted comedic touch. Well placed comedy, gave often low-key moments the lift they needed.
The Open Air Theatre has always had an interesting stage and this time was no exception. Peter McKintosh using the outdoor space beautifully, alongside Drew McOnie’s direction, including sending cast members into the audience multiple times made that large outdoor space feel suddenly intimate. As a result, On The Town delivers what it promises: a high-octane, high energy and uplifting performance. Call us cheesy, but: it’s a helluva show!