Review: On The Town

On The Town 94253

I’m biased here: I am a complete Leonard Bernstein nut. I’ve been very excited ever since I first heard about the new Broadway revival of On The Town. It’s not the unimpeachable masterpiece that Lenny’s West Side Story is, but it is still enough of a joy that as long as you nail that sublime Bernstein score, it’ll be a grand night out. Nail it this company does, and the results are glorious.

There are also gay undercurrents in this production – little tidbits here and there that I imagine are the brainchildren of Buyer & Cellar scribe Jonathan Tolins (who is credited with “additional material”). Plus, musical comedy sailors are always sexy, and doubly so when those sailors are played by Tony Yazbek, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves.

Those sailors are looking to get lucky on their one day of leave in the Big Apple – with the most romantic plans belonging to Gabey (Yazbek), who falls for a picture of a “Miss Turnstiles” winner. This admittedly thin conceit is really just a peg on which to hang a giddily energetic love letter to New York City.

Director John Rando wisely keeps most of the action downstage, which really helps the audience connect with a show in a barn like the Lyric Theatre. He has also infused the show with a simmering sexuality that definitely freshens up the proceedings.

This is a dance-heavy show, and choreographer Joshua Bergasse makes one heck of a Broadway debut. His work here points toward Jerome Robbins’s choreography for the original 1944 production without slavishly recreating it. His own voice – sassy and equally at home in balletic and jazzy mediums – comes through loud and clear.

As she does every time she mounts a stage, Jackie Hoffman steals every scene she’s in. Her largest of several roles she plays is Madame Dilly, a voice teacher with a weakness for booze and sailors. She’s even funnier playing a series of nightclub singers, none of whom gets to finish her number. Rando has clearly given her license to milk her exits on those numbers, and the results are truly hilarious and truly theatrical.

This may be the best thing ever done in the Broadway house now known as the Lyric. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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