ON THE TOWN
October 30, 2014
Three sailors on leave in NYC equal a classic musical originally choreographed by the legendary Jerome Robbins and to a score by equally legendary Leonard Bernstein. “Fancy Free,” (1944) the pure dance rendition and distillation of “On The Town” features prominently in the repertories of NYC Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
Now the full Broadway production is revived with the very charming NYC Ballet Principal Megan Fairchild (in her Broadway debut) along with a smashing cast that stars the indefatigable Tony Yazbeck, Jacy Armonstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves. Gamely directed by John Rando, the production has more dancing--very effectively engineered by choreographer Joshua Bergasse--than any other show on Broadway. Add to that, top-flight dancers and you have a dancer’s dream production.
When the three babe-hungry sailors alight on New York City’s shore, they scan the town for amusement to tide them over the 24-hour leave. Hardly a second elapses before Miss Turnstile becomes the targeted damsel of dreams. But ladies during World War II were just as enthralled by seeing men, and by golly, Hildy (Alysha Umptress) the ballsy taxi-driver wallops her dream guy Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson) with food, and free transportation while drowning him in anticipated love acts. All the partners get into the act, along with a sexually suppressed intellectual, the anthropologist Claire de Loon (Elizabeth Stanley) mesmerized by Ozzie’s (Clyde Alves) hunky, primitive-man, and you ave a study in chemistry’s sweet thrill.
Everyone knocks out the upbeat songs, while locating comedic gems couched in innocence. But central to the production is Bergasse’s choreography that reference’s Robbins’ brilliance while adding contemporary accents to the ballet dancing encased in jazzy isolations and exaggerated musical theater athletics. Everyone hones to the balletic form of pointed feet, erect torsos, effortless sequences and precision. But there’s an added muscularity that firms up the sailors’ all-American panache. To Rando’s credit, he underscores the movement as the best expression of the city’s urban beat and pulsating hormones of young people in the prime of life.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis