Tanglewood – Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town – Brandon Victor Dixon, Andy Karl, Christian Dante White; Boston Pops conducted by Keith Lockhart

On the Town, A Musical Comedy in Two Acts – Book & Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green based on an idea by Jerome Robbins; orchestrations by Hershy Kay, Don Walker, Elliott Jacoby, Ted Royal & Bruce Coughlin, with the composer

Gabey – Brandon Victor Dixon
Ozzie – Andy Karl
Chip – Christian Dante White
Hildy Esterhazy – Megan Lawrence
Claire De Loone – Laura Osnes
Ivy Smith – Georgina Pazcoguin
Pitkin W. Bridgework / First Workman – Mark Kudisch
Madame Maude P. Dilly / Diana Dream / Dolores Dolores – Andrea Martin
Lucy Schmeeler – Megan Sikora

Ensemble – Kim Fauré, Robert Hartwell, Anne Horak, Kevin Munhall, Jeffrey Schecter, Eric Sciotto, Megan Sikora, Dennis Stowe, Erica Sweaney & Lara Seibert Young

Members of the Boston Pops Orchestra
Keith Lockhart

Kathleen Marshall – Director & Co-Choreographer
Michael Krass – Costumes
Pamela Smith – Lighting
Steve Colby – Sound Designer
David Eggers – Assistant Director & Co-Choreographer

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 7 July, 2018
Venue: Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts

Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town at TanglewoodThe cast and conductorPhotograph: Hilary ScottIt is fitting for Tanglewood to host a celebration of the Leonard Bernstein centennial, since he played a major role in the development of this great music center, and it in turn was instrumental in his career development. His Tanglewood activities spanned a half-century, from his joining the inaugural class of the Berkshire Music Center in 1940 as a student of conducting (with Serge Koussevitzky) and composition (with Aaron Copland), to the last concert he conducted there in 1990, two months prior to his death. To launch this “Bernstein Centennial Summer”, Keith Lockhart conducted members of the Boston Pops Orchestra in a delightful production of On the Town, Bernstein’s first Broadway show.

On the Town was conceived by Bernstein and Jerome Robbins after their successful collaboration on the ballet Fancy Free, expanding on its storyline of three sailors on a one-day leave in New York City. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the book and lyrics and also performed in the first production, which opened in December 1944 as World War Two raged in Europe and the Pacific. The protagonists will ship out again the next day, and the women they encounter in New York are eager for their company, but their poignant parting, ‘Some Other Time’, recognizes the uncertainty of the future that they – and everyone else – were facing.

We hear in Bernstein’s score jazz and swing – and intimations of sounds that would emerge later from the composer’s pen, including West Side Story; a fascinating mixture of symphonic and jazz elements. Lockhart and the Pops (comprised largely of members of the Boston Symphony) blended these diverse elements superbly, especially in the ballet sequences, most of which became interludes here. This is unfortunate, since the prevalence of dance is really the defining characteristic of On the Town, building on what Rodgers & Hammerstein had done in Oklahoma! the year before. There still was some excellent dancing though, most notably by Georgina Pazcoguin, from New York City Ballet.

Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town at TanglewoodBrandon Victor Dixon, Christian Dante White, and Andy Karl in 'On The Town' with the Boston PopsPhotograph: Hilary ScottBrandon Victor Dixon was outstanding as Gabey, giving moving accounts of ‘Lonely Town’ and ‘Lucky to Be Me’ as well as the recurring ‘Gabey’s Comin’, which had been cut from the Broadway run. Gabey’s search for the elusive Ivy Smith, whose image he had glimpsed on a “Miss Turnstiles” poster in the subway, is at the center of the rather thin plot, but his shipmates have far more interesting encounters. Ozzie, who is looking to make out sexually, and anthropologist Claire de Loone are instantly ‘Carried Away’, while Chip, who plans to see the sights listed in his out-of-date guidebook, is seduced by the aggressive cabdriver Hildy, whose ‘Come Up to My Place’ and ‘I Can Cook Too’ proved hilarious.

Broadway veterans Andrea Martin and Marc Kudisch also gave terrific performances: Martin as Ivy’s dance teacher, Madam Dilly, as well as two nightclub singers; and Kudisch as Claire’s fiancé, Judge Pitkin W. Bridgework. After ponderously declaring ‘I Understand’ each time he finds Claire in a compromising pose with Ozzie, Bridgework finally loses his patience and ends up matched with Hildy’s roommate, the constantly sneezing Lucy Schmeeler.

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