On the Town (Regents Park Open Air Theatre)

Posted: June 16, 2017 in Theatre


I have seen the film and I have seen the musical semi-staged, but this is the first time that I have seen a full staging of Leonard Bernstein’s blissful On the Town. Maybe next time I’ll see it indoors, but I doubt if it could be better than this.

For the second time this year (the third if you count the semi-staged Carousel at the Coliseum), London is being treated to a golden era musical that incorporates modern ballet on a grand scale. Bernstein’s glorious score, a lightweight forerunner to his West Side Story, marries perfectly with the city of New York and includes both unforgettable songs and sweeping orchestral pieces as backing for the dances. Tom Deering’s 15-piece band does the score full justice. Book and lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

The thin story recounts the adventures of three sailors on 24 hours shore leave in the Big Apple. Danny Mac (not a professional dancer of course! Really?!) is Gabey, Gene Kelly’s role in the film, who embarks on a quest to find poster girl Ivy (Siena Kelly), while his shipmates Chip (Fred Haig) and Ozzie (Samuel Edwards) pair up with cab driver Hildy (Lizzy Connolly) and palaeontologist Claire (Miriam-Teak Lee). The show becomes a showcase for a new generation of British musical theatre talent, with a remarkable five of the six principals having graduated from Arts Education Schools. A number of more seasoned performers give strong support in cameo roles.

Director and choreographer Drew McOnie gives the production a vibrant energy that never tires from the moment that the sailors run down the gangplank through the audience until it is time for them to return back up it. The dancing is athletic and inventive (in one instance with a very modern twist), the singing is delightful and the fun is non-stop. On a balmy Summer evening in the middle of a park, this is the place to find paradise.

Performance date: 14 June 2017

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