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On The Town: an entertaining take on the 1940s musical, despite underwhelming aspects

| Theatre | 22/06/2017

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This year’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre summer programme kicks off with On The Town, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1940s musical about three sailors enjoying their shore leave to the full in New York City.  

Directed and choreographed by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie, the concept seems promising and the show has a lot going for it.  However, as Sandip Kana writes for What’s On London below, the colourful and tuneful production often underwhelms, although strong showings from the female cast members ensure it still makes for an entertaining night at the theatre.  

On The Town centres around a trio of sailors seeking to make the most of their 24 hour shore leave in New York during wartime 1944, cleverly juxtaposing the time pressures of naval life and warfare with a city the never sleeps.

In common with the relentless tick-tock of Old Father Time, director Drew McOnie makes sure that Gabey, Chip and Ozzie set about their task at a breakneck pace, set to Leonard Bernstein’s ever-excellent original score.

Sure enough, all three succeed in their mission, finding love before the call of duty yanks them away from their ladies dwelling on what could have been.

It’s inevitable that audiences will – perhaps unfairly – compare the protagonists to those portrayed in the 1949 movie by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin.

But while Danny Mac, Samuel Edwards and (understudy) Jacob Maynard do not reach those heady heights, they project a great deal of  charisma.  And yet, despite these qualities and their superb athleticism, singing and dancing, the overall result is often a little less than the sum of their parts.  Collectively they fall short.

In contrast, the leading actresses – Siena Kelly, Lizzy Connolly and Miriam-Taek Lee – stand out impressively.  Kelly is dainty and delicate as Ivy, Connolly is sassy and exuberant as outlandish Hildy, and Lee makes an impressive debut as the sharp-tongued Claire.

While their male colleagues’ contributions sometimes feel rather surprisingly deflated, the actresses help breathe life into the production with their humour and charm.

Elsewhere, the ensemble cast provides great support, keeping the show high-fuelled and energetic.  They are also aided by McOnie’s superb choreography, colour selection and moments of comedy, all of which contribute to an entertaining night at the theatre – regardless of its flaws.

On The Town is running at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 1st July 2017.  For tickets, head here.  All images used above are ©The Open Air Theatre.

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