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“On the Town” Revisited with Misty Copeland

A new cast member from the American Ballet Theatre is the cherry on the sundae of this brilliant confection of a show.

Misty Copeland and the ensemble in a scene from “On the Town” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Misty Copeland and the male ensemble in a scene from “On the Town” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

It’s bad news that On the Town will be closing on September 6th because the show is still in pristine, exciting shape with all the choreography, singing and shtick humming along at a breakneck pace.  It’s a long, but very involving show, but every moment is full of unflagging energy.  Wherever you look, the stage brims with superb performers creating a fantasy world.

Then, there’s the new cast member, Misty Copeland, the newly minted American Ballet Theatre principal ballerina, who has taken over the role of Ivy Smith, the catalyst for the daffy, warm-hearted plot of the show.  Formerly inhabited with sweetness and steely technique by another ballet star, Megan Fairchild, the role of Ivy Smith fits Ms. Copeland perfectly.  She makes it her own the moment she’s murmurs “Who, me?” in “Presentation of Miss Turnstiles,” the witty send-up of beauty competitions.

On the Town is about three naïve sailors on a 24-hour pass in 1940’s NYC.  When one, Gabey (Tony Yazbeck, still in extraordinary form) falls for the girl in the Miss Turnstiles poster he spies on a subway ride, he enlists his two buddies, Ozzie (Clyde Alves, goofy, yet delightfully macho) and Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson, sweetly naïve, but somehow sexy), to find her.   Their adventures looking for dates make up the plot.  Ozzie finds a ditzy, sex-starved anthropologist, Claire (Elizabeth Stanley, in great voice and willing to make a complete fool of herself).   Chip falls into the clutches—literally—of an equally sex-starved female taxi driver Hildy (Alysha Umphress, a large, agile lady with a voice to match).  Of course, Gabey does find Ivy, but plot complications separate them until a very happy ending.

The songs of Adolph Green & Betty Comden (witty lyrics, plus the libretto) and Leonard Bernstein (ravishing, evocative urban music) are the backbone of the muscial directed by John Rando who made this madcap show move with jaw-dropping speed.   He clearly was on the same wavelength as his brilliant choreographer Joshua Bergasse whose dances keep the plot—as well as the audience’s blood—flowing.  Jerome Robbins’ original choreography is mostly lost, but it is difficult to imagine better work than Bergasse’s.

Misty Copeland and Tony Yasbeck in a scene from “On the Town” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Misty Copeland and Tony Yasbeck in a scene from “On the Town” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Even though Ms. Copeland is the focus of attention right now, the four secondary leads still hold the show together.   Michael Rupert as Pitkin, Claire’s much put-upon “fiancé” knows exactly how and when to blow his top to best effect.  Allison Guinn as Hildy’s clueless roommate Lucy never overplays her social awkwardness.  When she finds romance at the end the show, the glow in her face is almost worth the price of admission. The two hardest workers are Jackie Hoffman and Stephen DeRosa who play numerous parts so deftly and with such commitment to detail that they leave the audience gasping with laughter at their over-the-top scenery chewing.

But, it is Miss Copeland who is the obvious draw right now and she doesn’t disappoint.  She has attracted some young blood to the audience who greeted her every move with cheers and ovations usually reserved for rock stars or sports heroes.  Her full-bodied sensuality and down-to-earth quality give new colors to this under-written role.

She’s the cherry on the sundae of a confection that shouldn’t be missed during its last few days on Broadway.

On the Town (through September 6, 2015)

Lyric Theatre, 213 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets call 877-250-2929, 800-982-2787 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com

For more Information visit  http://www.OnTheTownBroadway.com

Running time: two hours and 40 minutes including one intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (226 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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