'On the Town': EW review
On the Town boasts one of the most basic (and base) of plots: three guys on the loose in New York City for a day, trying to get laid. And happily, all three sailors encounter women who are—despite the WWII-era setting—just as game as they are. In director John Rando’s spirited and surprisingly frank new Broadway revival, there’s more bare skin and (offstage) sex than in that notorious Fleet Week episode of Sex and the City. (Move over, Samantha!)
Tony Yazbeck’s Gabey is the romantic of the bunch, chasing after the beauty queen whose poster he sees on the subway, a seeming ingenue who moonlights as a cooch dancer in a seedy nightclub (and who’s played by New York Ballet principal Megan Fairchild with Balanchine-bred grace). Clyde Alves’ Ozzie is the period playa, who falls in with a sex-crazed high-society gal (Elizabeth Stanley) two-timing her deep-pocketed and all-too-understanding fiancé. And Jay Armstrong Johnson’s Chip is the aw-shucks hayseed of the trio, easy pickings for the sexually forthright cabbie Hildy (Alysha Umphress).
The show also boasts a wonderful Leonard Bernstein score, an often witty script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and some very balletic dance interludes first choreographed by Jerome Robbins—and updated here by Joshua Bergasse in a facsimile (or mimeograph?) that sometimes looks like it went through the machine one too many times.
The Bronx may be up, as the song goes, but the battery sometimes runs down on this production—which only occasionally hits the ebullient heights of the Empire State Building. Yasbeck and Fairchild are superb dancers, but there’s not much of a spark between them on stage (admittedly, the plot keeps them apart for much of the show). Johnson, a standout earlier this year in the Encores! revival of Most Happy Fella and New York Philharmonic’s Sweeney Todd, brings a rubber-limbed physicality to Chip. But the biggest laughs of the evening go to Broadway veteran Jackie Hoffman, who serves up a rare culinary treat in her gut-busting recurring role as the heroine’s delusional vocal instructor: She’s a kosher ham. B+