On the Town

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On the Town

Lyric Theatre, NYC, October 21, 2014

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

On the Town Lyric Theatre (formerly Foxwoods Theatre)
(L-R): Jay Armstrong Johnson, Tony Yazbeck, Clyde Alves. Photo: Joan Marcus

The fleet’s in and the U.S. Navy hits the streets of the city that never sleeps.

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A vivacious revival of the 1944 musical On the Town at the Lyric Theatre, proves that New York is still “a helluva town.” With a 28-piece orchestra and rousing direction by John Rando, the rich, jazzy score by Leonard Bernstein and Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s spiffy book and catchy lyrics fill the theater with the excitement of musicals in the Golden Age.

The cast is tops. Music and zany are key words with priority over acting. This fast, fun, sexy book centers on three sailors who strike out on the town for a good time, New York style, and that means girls. Gabey (Tony Yazbeck) spots his fantasy on a subway poster of sweet Ivy Smith (“Miss Turnstiles”), played by Megan Fairchild of the New York Ballet Company. He steals the poster and sets off to find her. Yazbeck, an outstanding dancer and singer, shines in the spotlight singing the gorgeous ballad “Lonely Town” and, later, dancing a sublime pas de deux with Fairchild.

Ditsy Ozzie (Clyde Alves) falls in lust in the Museum of Natural History with steamed-up Kewpie doll/anthropologist Claire de Loon (Elizabeth Stanley) and together they get “Carried Away.

” Stanley is silky smooth as she finesses around her fiancé, the staid, clueless Judge Pitkin (Michael Rupert), who pops in at inopportune moments, murmuring, “I understand.” That is, until he meets someone new, Lucy Schmeeler (Allison Guinn), who understands him.

Country boy Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson), is picked up by Hildy, a horny hack (Alysha Umphress), offering him a tour of the city.

Armstrong, an athletic dancer, is hurled and twirled in a wild taxi ride through the city with the hilarious Umphress, who highjacks him in her yellow cab.

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With more than touring in mind, Hildy finally has her way with Chip in her apartment, topping the afterglow with “I Can Cook Too.” The silliness is bolstered by the recurrent appearances of veteran comedienne Jackie Hoffman in various roles for no real reason but laughs.

Rando moves the cast intermittently into the aisles, which aptly makes use of the large theater.

Cartoon sets by Beowulf Borritt, with plastic skyscrapers and the cutout of the ship jutting from one side, imaginatively provide an overall bright, cheery look with Jason Lyons’s lighting. Jerome Robbins’s roots in the show are respected by choreographer Joshua Bergasse with some rapturous ballet sequences. The agile company is dressed in Jess Goldstein’s technicolor costumes and the sailors are eye candy in their whites.

With a full orchestra, spectacular dancing, a glorious score and hummable material like “Lucky to Be Me,” “New York, New York” and “Times Square Ballet,” this is an all-American musical. Appropriately, it opens with the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” just as it did in the original production. With the war still raging, “Some Other Time” makes for a bittersweet ending when the hour comes for the three couples to go their own ways.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for Theatre.com and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.