Broadway revivals are a staple of New York’s theatre tradition. While producers’ motivations are obviously marked by dollar signs, revivals also provide theatergoers with an opportunity to see a beloved production live–and not just subsist on cast recordings, film adaptations, and memories of performances past. This season’s revival of On the Town, now playing at the Lyric Theatre, offers audiences a chance to see a Golden Age classic–and have a rip-roaring good time in the process.
The plot of On the Town is simple: sailors Gabey (Tony Yazbeck), Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson), and Ozzie (Clyde Alves) are on leave in New York City for 24 hours. They all have something they want to accomplish that day. Chip wants to see all the sights. Ozzie wants to see all the girls–and is probably the inspiration for these kind of posters:
Gabey’s goal ends up to be the most pressing, as he wants to meet the latest Miss Turnstiles: Ivy Smith, (Megan Fairchild), whose poster captures Gabey’s imagination and heart. The boys split up to find Ivy, finding romance along the way. Chip meets Hildy (Alysha Umphress), a taxi driver intent on bringing Chip to her place. Meanwhile, Ozzie falls for Claire De Loone (Elizabeth Stanley), an archeologist who is more unhinged than she seems. Though Gabey does find Ivy, it isn’t certain if he will join his dream girl in a musical happy-ever-after.
On the Town is a delightful musical, and this production seems to have no difficulty in bringing that delight to the stage. With John Rando’s perfectly paced direction and Joshua Bergasse’s stunning choreography, On the Town dazzles from start to finish. The musical numbers are brilliant, being both hilarious (“Carried Away,” “I Wish I Was Dead,” and many more) and poignant (“Lonely Town,” “Some Other Time”). And while I’m not the biggest dancing enthusiast, the dream ballet sequences in On the Town (which surprisingly outnumber the ones in West Side Story) are a must see. They are mini-productions in their own right, with gorgeous dancing narratives supported by Leonard Bernstein’s lush score.
On the Town’s cast is another winning element. First off, it is wonderful that a musical revival has a cast more diverse than its original mounting. People of all ages, body types, and ethnicities round out the ensemble, which is something refreshing–and welcoming–to see. There are also standout performances by all: New York City Ballet principal dancer Megan Fairchild is an adorable Ivy, as well as being the reigning queen of dream ballet sequences. Elizabeth Stanley embodies kooky fierceness as Claire De Loone, while Alysha Umphress slays the role of Hildy with her voice alone. The three actors playing our lovable sailors are also fantastic with their roles. Having playful energy and the dancing and singing chops to back it up, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves are the embodiment of musical theatre fun. And Tony Yazbeck, with his beautiful voice and soulful eyes, is the perfect protagonist to root for. He’s also a welcome member of the shirtless men in musical theatre guild.
On the Town is a revival that has energy, focus, and most importantly, has fun. And with a great musical, that’s all you need for a night at the theatre.