From the moment the 30 piece-student ensemble plays the exciting Leonard Bernstein overture to the lovable old chestnut On the Town, you feel swept up and propelled into the vibrant world of three sailors on leave for a weekend ‘on the town’ in New York City. Music is the strong point of this ambitious undertaking by an enthusiastic group of college talent from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music under the superb conducting of N. Thomas Pedersen. Presented at the Hartke Theatre of the Catholic University of America, this tried and true classic holds up well – especially when executed by such an eager and enthusiastic cast.
The show’s text (book by Betty Comden and Adolf Green) is revered here, sometimes painstakingly so- -the first act clocked in at one hour and 40 minutes! So if you are looking for a show that is faithful to the text, this is it. The somewhat dated tone of the book is offset by the musical numbers which are vibrant and wittily choreographed by Pauline Grossman. Constant fluid movement is choreographed with the large ensemble cast as well as with the movements of the principal characters. Particularly effective was the “Lonely Town Pas de Deux”. The costumes designed by Eleanor Dicks aided the vital and urbane look of the show.
The well-known musical score by Bernstein with lyrics by Comden and Green was beautifully sung by the cast of principals against the creative scenic design of Daniel Pinha which included a backdrop of city buildings as well as a visually arresting subway inset. Musical Highlights included the rich, shimmering vocal tones of Britt Lewis III as Gabey singing the haunting “A Lonely Town” and the upbeat “I am So Lucky to be Me”. The amusing duet “Carried Away” was sung with verve and gusto by Lara Zinn as Claire and Matthew Hirsh as Ozzie.
Though this was a superb ensemble effort, Melissa Victor as Madame Dilly could be justifiably accused of stealing her scenes with her superb comedic timing. Also a standout was Kathryn Furtado as roommate Lucy Schmeiler. Furtado managed to be comedic as well as poignant.
Head on over to the Hartke Theatre to see this exciting and entertaining On the Town.
On the Town plays through October 30, 2011 at Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre- 620 Michigan Ave, NE, in Washington , DC. For tickets, call the box office