“On the Town” Opens on Broadway

New York, New York, It’s a Helluva Town

on the town posterOn September 20, 2014, On the Town began previews at the Lyric Theatre, previously known as the Foxwoods. On October 16, 2014, the show opened after 24 preview performances. The reviews are in, and critics are loving it! This is encouraging given that the Lyric Theatre is a notoriously difficult theatre in which to sell tickets profitably. The most recent overambitious financial catastrophe there was Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark (when the theatre was called the Foxwoods), which had a $70 million capitalization and garnered bad press due to injuries from flying spectacles and subsequent lawsuits. Although that show sold many tickets, many tourists compelled rather than deterred by the press, it was still unable to recoup anywhere near its capitalization, and closed at a loss. The next show slated for the Lyric was King Kong – a musical complete with a giant spectacular gorilla. However, when that show got postponed, On the Town was brought in to fill the slot. This was not looking promising, as On the Town is a revival of a semi-dated, fun-loving classic Broadway musical – not exactly groundbreaking fare. And though ticket sales to date have not been stupendous, these positive reviews are certainly heartening.

The Reviews Are InOn the town cast

Ben Brantley of The New York Times fell in love with On the Town. He compared it to candy-colored heaven, and congratulated it on being a show that dealt with sex and yet was appropriate for the whole family. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News praised the performers, the choreography, and the classic score, while deeming it a love song to the city. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press found the show lively and uplifting, calling it the perfect way to clear the bad energy of the doomed Spiderman. Dave Quinn of NBC New York lauded the musical for its ability to convert even the most jaded New Yorkers to understand a new appreciation for the city, seen through the eyes of those who are arriving there for the very first time. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter fell immediately for the 28-piece orchestra’s rendition of the National Anthem, and his attention was retained throughout the entire show. He was relieved that this revival succeeded in bringing back the brilliance of the original 1944 production, when the last two revival attempts (in 1971 and 1988) both failed.

Financial Data

The numbers have not yet been affected by these positive reviews, but the show is going to need a boost in order to stay afloat. In each of the four weeks of previews, the show has barely made 40% of its gross potential. In the last reported data – the week ending October 12, 2014 – the show brought in $608,694 over the course of 7 performances, which only represents 39.05% of its gross potential. Of course, the show has a relatively high gross potential due to the gigantic size of the theatre; with 14,992 seats to fill over the course of a normal week of 8 performances, On the Town is potentially able to bring in as much as $1,775,166 each week, not taking into account premium ticket sales. At that rate, it would be competing with the most successful shows on Broadway such as Wicked and The Lion King. However, though these positive reviews may persuade some ticketbuyers to check out the show, unfortunately critics do not hold as much sway as they once did. Whereas some niche readers may appreciate the observation that this production succeeded where the past two revivals failed, none of this will overcome the bias of someone who believes off the bat that this is a tired, old show compared to some of the newer, more exciting options on Broadway.

“On The Town” Begins Previews

An Ambitious Production in the Lyric Theatre

on the town posterOn September 20, 2014, the 2014 revival of On the Town began previews at the presently named Lyric Theatre. This venue has undergone many transitions in its storied history, and was most recently home to the infamous Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, when the theatre was named the Foxwoods. Newly purchased by the London based theatre impresario Ambassador Theatre Group, the now minted Lyric Theatre has welcomed On the Town onto its stage. This musical, with a score by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, originally premiered on Broadway in 1944. This will be its third revival, with previous Broadway productions taking place in 1971 and 1988, in addition to the 1949 film version and several British productions. In bringing On the Town to the Lyric, the producers Howard and Janet Kagan were taking an enormous risk. If the $60 million Spiderman, with its brand name recognition and notoriously spectacular flying acts could not fill the 1,938 seats of the huge venue, then a little known old-fashioned musical revival may have a tough time indeed. In fact, On the Town was a last minute booking, when the previously intended tenant – the much more spectacle filled King Kong – had to drop out.

A Good Old-Fashioned New York Story

Set in 1934, On the Town is the story of three sailors who have 24 hours of shore leave in New York City. In addition to seeing the sites, Ozzie, Chip, and Gabey have their intentions set on finding three special ladies to spend the time with. One of the early numbers in the show is the well known number New York, New York, with lyrics including “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town, the Bronx is up but the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground…” It is not long before Chip find his lady, a tough talking cab driver named Hildy, who brags in an upbeat number that she “can cook, too” (I Can Cook, Too). Meanwhile, Ozzie finds himself at the Modern Museum of Science, where he meets his beloved Claire de Loone. However, Claire is engaged to be married to a famous judge. Gabey is having more difficulty finding a lady friend, until he stumbles upon Ivy Smith taking singing lessons at Carnegie Hall. Needless to say, the three couples encounter many twists and turns, but ultimately end up happily ever after, or at least with the firm possibility of it.

A Cast of Broadway Performers, But Not Stars

The 2014 production is directed by John Rando, who most recently helmed A Christmas Story The Musical and The Wedding Singer on On the town castBroadway. This is the first choreography credit on Broadway for Joshua Bergasse, but he appeared onstage in Hairspray and The Life. Respectively, Ozzie, Chip, and Gabey are played by Clyde Alves (Bullets Over Broadway, Nice Work If You Can Get It), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Hands on a Hardbody, Catch Me If You Can), and Tony Yazbeck (Gypsy, A Chorus Line).   Their female counterparts Claire, Hildy, and Ivy are played, respectively by Elizabeth Stanley Million Dollar Quartet, Cry Baby), Alysha Umphress (Bring It On The Musical, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), and Megan Fairchild, making her Broadway debut. Though these six lead performers have spanned the spectrum of Broadway musicals in the last few years, none of them are what you could fairly call household names. Therefore, this production certainly has a tough road ahead of it in terms of attracting enough ticketbuyers to make the show last more than a month or two. On The Town officially opens on October 16, 2014, when the reviews will help determine its fate. Unfortunately, even the most laudatory reviews may not be enough to keep this show on its feet.

Musical Cabaret at Museum of the City of New York

In celebration of the two cities being featured in its “London Street Photography” and “City Scenes: Highlights from New York Street Photography” exhibits, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting “From West End to Broadway: A Musical Theater Cabaret”.  Taking place on Sunday, November 11 at 3pm, this musical event (part of the museum’s Perform! series) will celebrate the unique sounds of London and New York City through song.

The songs of Noel Coward, Betty Comden & Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein will be among the “musical snapshots” featured, creating rich pictures of these distinguished cities from past to present.  Performers Brigid Brady (The Phantom of the Opera), Destan Owens (Rent), Sarah Stiles (Into the Woods), and Peter Land (Noel and Gertie) will offer their singing talents for the event, which is directed by Michael Montel and music directed by Lawrence Yurman.

Tickets for “From West End to Broadway” are $35 for the general public, but only $25 for students, seniors, and members of the museum.  To RSVP or get further information, call 917-492-3395.  Tickets can be purchased online here.