Thursday, September 25, 2014

On the Town

A new Broadway revival of On the Town began previews over the weekend at the oft-renamed Lyric (nee Foxwoods, nee Hilton, nee Ford) Theatre. There were no survivors.

This is not going to be a complete review. I left at intermission, so I can only base my opinions on what I saw in the first act. Yet, what I saw truly appalled me. This is the kind of production where, if it was your introduction to the piece, you'd wonder what caused anyone to hold it in any regard. This staging is so bad that it calls the unquestionable genius of the piece--the gorgeous Leonard Bernstein score, the witty and wry Comden and Green lyrics, the delightful cast of characters--into question. From Joshua Bergasse's listless choreography, to John Rando's tone-deaf direction, to a principal company painfully short on charisma, there's nothing to be found that rates a big Navy E.

The problems with this production can be perfectly enumerated by deconstructing one scene. "I Can Cook Too" is, perhaps, one of the best songs the American musical theatre has ever produced. It's built on entendre and innuendo, as the lascivious cab driver Hildy (here played by Alysha Umphress, who maybe could have succeeded with better direction) lures sailor Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson) to bed with tales of her prize-worthy "culinary" skills. (Wink, wink) Here, Chip all but rips Hildy's blouse open before she's even sung a note, gyrates all over her while she's supposed to be seducing him, and basically initiates the (off-stage) sexual denouement. The entire point of the song is eclipsed. It isn't seduction anymore. It's bragging.

This is the third Broadway revival of On the Town. Neither of the first two revivals lasted longer than two months. I don't see the trend being broken here.

[Side orchestra seats, TDF]

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