On the Town – 26 March 2005

On The Town has a very basic plot – 3 sailors have 24 hours shore leave – for the first time in New York. Each eventually gets a girl only having to leave them on the docks at 6 am the next day as they return to their ship.

Bernstein’s score has very much a jazzy, syncopated feel to it. The shows’ most famous song ‘New York, New York‘ is the sailors’ announcement that they have arrived. What follows is a mix of dance, ballads and comedy numbers which contrast and complement each other to create a rewarding score overall.

The ENO have assembled a mixed of musical performers and their chorus members. Tim Howar, Adam Garcia and Aaron Lazar are the cheeky, naïve and romantic sailors respectively. All sing and dance excellently creating great characters. Aaron Lazar has a rich, voice which shines in ‘Lonely town’, his gentle characters is endearing as he looks for Miss Turnstiles. Adam Garcia’s bookish Chip runs into the Caroline O’Connors’ Hildy – quirky, dominant and complete opposite to Chip but the two compliment each other. Caroline a veteran of the comedic role excels as the every so slightly desperate Hildy. The antics around the taxi as she gets her way with Chip are timed perfectly.

Lucy Schaufer appears at first to be a straight laced Anthropologist but a chance meeting with Ossie brings out the sexual desire in her. Both do literally get ‘Carried away’ for each other’s company’ Lucy was excellent and her interaction with her fiancé ‘Pitkin’ is very well done. Poor old Pitkin (Andrew Shore) always saying he understands instead of admitting the truth that he doesn’t – eventually he looks at himself and stops being a doormat. Helen Anker was good as the starlet wannabe Ivy, the young girl who could easily be the target of the unscrupulous.

Syliva Sims as the dotty Miss Dilly and Alison Jiear as the varying, and slightly depressive, nightclub chanteuses were excellent. Alison has a great gift for performing comedy songs.

Staging is fairly minimalist but would be best described as basic but effective. The shipyard depicted with beams and crates on shore. The apartments of Hildy and Clare probably the most complete including Hildy’s very quick cooking oven. Hildy’s taxi was a yellow framework of a taxi, fully drivable, functional but with the skeletal look you could always see all the action.

The subway was effectively created with sliding flats and lighting. The nightclub – one set which formed all three nightclubs simply by the changing of dressing and lighting.

The production is not over lit at any stage and the costumes are on the whole fairly subdued with clips of colours – for example the red hats and gloves contrasting with eh grey suits. The style suited the production.

This is a highly polished production from all performances to staging and choreography, from Stephen Mears. On the Town is reliant on dance numbers and all are performed excellently.

This is a great example of how opera and musical worlds can mix and work well together.

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