Three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York City
On The Town
Musical Theatre Guild
Music by Leonard Bernstein.
Books and Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Based on an idea by Jerome Robbins.
Directed by Natalie Garner '98.
Music Directed by Carson Schutze G.
Starring Kirsten Findell G, Irene M. Wilson '98, Stacy Pruitt '99, Anthony Young-Garner '99, Seth Cooperman '99, and Bruce Applegate '94.By Teresa Huang
The Musical Theatre Guild's production of Leonard Bernstein's On the Town produced good individual performances and energy but not enough character development or interaction. The chorus members outshone the lead members, whose interactions with each other were inconsistent. The production is obviously the result of hard work, but the end product isn't finetuned enough to be a complete success.
On the Town tells the adventures of three sailors, Chip (Anthony-Young Garner '99), Ozzie (Seth Cooperman '99) and Gabey (Bruce Applegate '94). They're on shore leave in New York City for 24 hours and each has a goal - Chip wants to see the sights his father told him about, Ozzie wants to find some women, and Gabey wants to find that special someone for him. Each sailor finds a woman to fulfill his dreams, but not without plenty of chaos in between.
Young-Garner, Cooperman, and Applegate play the sailors well, showing strong voices and energy, though they all seem to be the same person through the early parts of the play. Their characters aren't developed well enough to distinguish one happy sailor demeanor from the other.
The women they find are another story. Hildy (Kirsten Findell G), a New York cabbie who convinces Chip to forget his city sights, is enthusiastic and down to earth, but a little awkward with her more outgoing songs. Claire (Irene M. Wilson '98), an anthropologist who tames Ozzie's primitive history, is well sung and acted. However, the interaction between both couples was rather unappealing. The attraction between them suddenly appears, without any previous tension or explanation. Ivy Smith (Stacy Pruitt '99), a Coney Island dancer who captures the heart and mind of lonely Gabey, looks great in her role, making you wish her part had more stage time. Pruitt's interaction with Applegate is effective and believable.
Despite all this, some of the best performances came from the chorus members, who held one or two scene roles, all of which were more humorous and interesting than the main characters. Everyone sang well, especially the men, and their energy showed in their facial expressions and dancing. Moments with small characters like Wilelmina Figment (Anna Benefiel '00), Madame Dilly (Seema Nagpal '99), and the talkative ladies (Christina Schofield '98 and Yuying Chen '97) were terrific and kept the show alive.
The most disappointing aspect of the show was the drab and nondescript set design. The set pieces were more impressive than the set itself, which one would expect to include at least a New York City skyline silhouette.
A key element of this production was the dancing, like most musicals associated with Jerome Robbins. The dancing in On the Town has some nice elements in it, and the dancers fill the music well, but at times the choreography was more ballet-like than jazzy, and it didn't exploit the amount of energy the dancers had to offer. The show contains a lot of dream-like dance numbers, and though they're fairly well choreographed and the orchestra handles them fantastically, they seem to drag on, their meaning and purpose presented only adequately.
On The Town has too many scattered weaknesses that prevent it from being as good as it could be. The strengths of the show are in its nuances, like the chorus members and the singing, but it lacks character development and effective interaction between most of the actors. On the Town is a good effort, but doesn't come off well enough.