On the Town
While the cast is full of impressive performers, the real star of this On the Town is choreographer Patti Colombo, whose imaginative effort here marks her as one of the major talents in the business. Leonard Bernstein's dynamic score has four ballet numbers, and Colombo rises to the challenge with lively work that never seems stale. Most impressive is the "Imaginary Coney Island" ballet, danced with expressive grace by Tyler Hanes as the lovelorn sailor Gabey and Yvette Tucker as the pinup girl he idolizes.
There's plenty of comedy, too, thanks to the boisterous book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The book is dated and kind of corny, but in a good way; and the Bernstein/Comden/Green score finds moments for comedy ("I Can Cook Too"), tenderness (the beautiful "Lucky To Be Me") and sentimentality (the haunting "Some Other Time").
Jennifer Cody scores (in more ways than one) as an uninhibited taxi driver, while Kelly Sullivan shows off a gorgeous soprano and an impressive flair for comedy as a kooky anthropologist. There's also excellent work from Jeffrey Schecter as the goofiest of the sailors, while Bill Nolte is highly enjoyable as Sullivan's doormat of a fiancé.
The disappointments are minor. Brian Shepard barely registers as the naïve sailor Chip; his romantic partner Cody overpowers him (again, in more ways than one). Hanes sings and dances impressively as Gabey, but he never quite commands the stage the way the best leading men do. And Tony Award winner Harriet Harris doesn't get the tone right as the comic villainess Madame Dilly; she seems more mean than madcap. (Another Tony winner, Andrea Martin, got more laughs when she played the role in last year's production in New York's City Center Encores! series.)
Kudos must be given to Walt Spangler for his set design, which depicts everything from a subway train to a series of nightclubs in witty and unpredictable ways. It's another example of the high level of creativity that makes this On the Town so special.
On the Town runs through Sunday, December 6, 2009 at the Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn, New Jersey. Ticket prices range from $25 to $92, with student rush tickets available, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 973-376-4343, or in person at the box office, or online at www.papermill.org.
On the Town