REVIEW: On the Town – Eastwood Park Theatre

Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1944 musical On The Town, is one of the great New York musicals and arguably, one of the great American musical theatre classics. This mating dance of a musical follows three sailor buddies: wide-eyed farm boy Gabey (Andi Denny), nerdy Chip (Ross McNally) and ladies man Ozzie (Kris Morrison) on 24 hours of shore leave during World War II. When Gabey spies an advert for Miss Turnstiles on the subway, the trio set out to find his dream girl. As they chase around the city, the pals are inevitably side-tracked by a cast of kooky characters.

While remembered today for its glorious score, the show was expanded from the great Jerome Robbins’ ballet Fancy Free, and remains dance-heavy, that, coupled with the sound of Bernstein’s jazzy, brassy, bluesy symphonic score (usually played by an orchestra of 28), would seem to be impossible for an amateur company to recreate, and it’s a truly brave company that tackles a Titan of a project like this, but boy do Glasgow Music Theatre succeed.

Indelibly marked in our memories are the performances from the 1949 film version, in particular Gene Kelly’s Gabey and Frank Sinatra’s Chip, and you would think that unfair comparisons would be made, but the three male leads are a joy from the first notes ringing out in New York, New York to the sunrise at the end of their eventful day. The quality of the singing, the crispness of the diction and the sheer talent of these actors, would put many professional touring productions to shame. The women are an absolute delight too: the show-stopping voice of Christina Leon as man-eater Hildy and Julie Henery’s brilliantly judged ditzy turn as anthropologist Claire de Loon, particularly make their mark, as do the supporting performances of Lindsey Ross as the tipsy Miss Dilly and Kelly Johnston as Hildy’s sneezy roommate Lucy. Vocally, Denny’s Lonely Town and Morrison, Leon, McNally and Henery’s Some Other Time are simply beautiful.

Mention must also be made of the eight-piece orchestra briskly lead by Erik Igelström, who do a fine, full-blooded job, recreating the sound of the 1940s.

Any faults lie with the piece itself rather than the company: it has always been a little disjointed – playing like a musical revue rather than an out-and-out musical, but this is a minor quibble in an outstanding production from this innovative company. It’s old-fashioned, corny but charming and as frothy as a bath full of bubbles, but it’s none the worse for that. You’d be hard-pressed to find finer performances on the professional stage – catch it while you can.

At Eastwood Park Theatre until Saturday 4 February 2017