On the Town at Barrington Stage Company, 6/16/13

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Pittsfield, Mass.

If the Broadway original of “On the Town” was anything like the production now on stage at Barrington Stage Company, then it’s no wonder the baby boom coincided with the hit’s initial run (1944 to 1946).

Sassy, sexy, energetic and fun — it’s a hell of a musical.

The story is simple enough: three sailors — Ozzie, Chip and Gabey — set out on a 24-hour shore leave in 1944’s New York City looking for adventure — and dames. The stage set is simple, too, with minimal signs and scrims, and occasional tables and seats to suggest apartments, restaurants, a taxi, streets and museums.

The rest of it, though, only seems simple. The top-notch 10-piece orchestra under the direction of Darren R. Cohen nailed Leonard Bernstein’s energetic and upbeat score. Joshua Bergasse’s choreography filled the stage with joyous movement and vitality, creating stage pictures that winked at Jerome Robbins while taking on a life of its own (the musical was based on Robbins’ ballet “Fancy Free,” after all).

The show demands high-energy triple-threat performers who can dance, act and sing. Kudos to director John Rando for pulling together a cast where everyone – all 26 people — delivers.
Tony Yazbeck stands out as Gabey, who sees a poster for “Miss Turnstile” in the subway and makes it his goal to find her, aka Ivy Smith (played by the lithe and athletic Deanna Doyle).

He commands the stage in “Lonely Town” not only with his strong voice, which captures the slow and mournful tones, but also his graceful dancing, which reflects his longing and creates an emotional connection with the audience.

The multitude of comic moments (the book and lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) also connected. To name just a few: The wiry Jay Armstrong Johnson’s Chip is a perfect foil to the full-voiced Alysha Umphress’s Hildy the cabdriver in her aggressive seduction song “Come Up to My Place.” The physical comedy and suggestive lyrics as he threw himself over, under and around the taxi-cab seat, while she often pulled him to her ample breasts brought out some of the biggest laughs of the night.

In the outrageous song “Carried Away,” Ozzie (the charming and energetic Clyde Alves) and Claire (the winsome Elizabeth Stanley) delve into unrestrained lust, as she – an engaged anthropologist – seems to lose herself to her animal instincts as she wraps herself around him, while he – equally carried away — wags his tongue and dances about like an ape.

With all these strong performances, it is some feat that Nancy Opel, as Ivy’s hard-drinking vocal teacher Madame Dilly , nearly steals the show with her antics.

Is the story merely a mid-20th-century male fantasy, a joyful and playful escape from wartime? Or can the sexual aggressiveness of Hildy and Claire be seen as a precursor to the sexual freedoms of third-wave feminism?

Whatever the case may be, be on the lookout for a Berkshire baby boom nine months from now.


“On the Town”
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield, Mass.
Length: 2 hours 20 minutes with one intermission
Continues: Various times and days through July 13
Tickets: Start at $20
Info: 413-236-8888; http://www.barringtonstageco.org


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