On The Town – Open Air Theatre – review

It’s a helluva show


On The Town

On The Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a helluva show. From the moment the three sailors appear in the previously languid dock scene, it’s a joyous, colourful celebration of life. It could be called Seize The Day.

With the songs and sub plots of the original stage play restored, this is a much more explicit eulogy than the film version to enjoying the moment . Even the opening line of the opening song is more explicit- ‘helluva town’ instead of the bowdlerised ‘wonderful town’.

The sailors have 24 hours in New York and they want to make the most of it. There are three strong female characters who want to make the most of them. Lizzy Connolly as cab driver Hildy has her eyes on Chip (superbly played by understudy Jacob Maynard). When she takes him back to her place and sings I Can Cook Too, we don’t have any doubt what else she can do. And I don’t mean that she sings well and has excellent comedic skills.

Although World War Two is not played on in the heavy handed way of that other revived Gene Kelly vehicle An American In Paris at the Dominion, it is there in the background. The sailors have faced death and survived. The women are doing ‘men’s jobs’. Everyone is living for today.

Miriam Teak-Lee is a wonderful find as Claire, the anthropologist and fiancée of The Judge, who gets, in the words of her song, Carried Away when she meets other men, including Ozzie (Samuel Edwards). Making her professional debut, she sings and dances like the best of them.

Siena Kelly as Ivy, Miss Turnstiles, is another graduate of Arts Educational Schools making her professional debut. She has a great personality, making it clear why Gabey (Danny Mac) would fall for her. Danny Mac himself, yet another of the Arts Educational Schools alumni, acquits himself well. All three male leads present their characters as ‘nice guys’, straightforward, sensitive and sentimental, adding to the joy of this show.

The production never flags. Director and choreographer Drew McOnie has honoured Jerome Robbins’ original concept with some exuberant, dynamic dance sequences, including the most moving moment in the show, a secretive liaision between two men danced to Lonely Town, reflecting those more prejudiced times.

Peter McKintosh is to be congratulated for his industrial style set contrasting with his colourful costumes. The music by Leonard Bernstein has aged well. The lyrics by Comden and Green are fresh and amusing.

This was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve spent at a theatre. I can’t imagine a better summer treat.

On The Town performed at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 1 July 2017.