Friday, November 21, 2008

On The Town

photo: Joan Marcus

Guys in crisp white sailor suits are leaping through the air once more and New York New York is once again a helluva town. This Encores! production is an effervescent shot of music-theatre bliss, thanks to its full lush orchestra playing that flawless score, and a just-about-perfect cast having a ball with that sparkling book and dancing those tremendously expressive Robbins dances (supplemented here by Warren Carlyle). Is it possible to love old-school musical comedy and not be smitten with this production of On The Town? I doubt it. I don't know of a performer right now who is more suited to play lovesick romantic leading man Gabey than Tony Yazbeck, who sings and dances like a dream and whose "Lonely Town" is as heartfelt and evocative as I have ever heard. Also standing out, in a thoroughly outstanding cast, are Christian Borle and Jennifer Laura Thompson, whose comic chemistry together is the kind that slaps a smile on your face just to look at them, and Andrea Martin, who mugs and hams with such delicious shamelessness as a boozing voice teacher that she has an aerial view of over-the-top. Now for the bad news: the unusual staging, which puts the orchestra dead center dividing the playing area between the book scenes downstage and the dance scenes upstage on an elevation, is a smashing success downstairs but apparently a huge sightline nightmare from the Gallery, where even in the best of circumstances one longs for a seatbelt for fear of tumbling to one's death.

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