Bernstein’s glorious score coupled with Jerome Robbins dance concept is a recipe for success with London’s newest opening, On the Town. Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie is at the helm of this first offering from the Open Air Theatre’s 2017 season, providing a masterclass in how to breathe fresh life into a classic musical ballet.
The show follows three sailors enjoying 24 hours of shore leave in the big city, New York New York. The trio declare Manhattan girls are the prettiest in the world and start the hunt for dates for the evening. As the sailors pick up their girls, chaos ensues, making their day in the city one not to forget.
The production is wonderfully fluid, with an inspired set that really grasps the space as well as the concept of the musical. Scene changes are easy and slot in relatively unobserved allowing full focus on the all-important dancing. McOnie once again proves why he is a leader in his field, with visually stunning choreography. It’s fresh but brilliantly in touch with the original piece, a personal highlight being a gorgeous male duet.
Leading man Danny Mac may be known for his dancing following his stint on Strictly, but in this show he proves there’s more to the man than his moves. Vocally he shines as Gabey along with Jacob Maynard as Chip and Samuel Edwards as Ozzie. The trio confidently hold the show, their performances only enhanced by the girls they seek to date. Lizzy Connolly gives us a perky, hilarious Hildy and Mirian-Teak Lee stuns with her vocal ability in the role of Claire. Siena Kelly (Ivy) looks beautifully at home with the strong dance ensemble yet shines in her individual scenes.
If the strong leading cast wasn’t enough, the show has witty character pieces from the likes of Naoko Mori (Lucy Schmeeler) and Mark Heenehan (as The Judge). It’s a shame their characters didn’t allow them to be used more.
With simple yet bright costumes, creative lighting and a sublime soundtrack, effortlessly led by Tom Deering, this really is an all-round hit. The production values really make up for what the plot may lack and the show boasts one of the strongest casts in London right now, from the leading man through to the last member of the ensemble. On the Town offers an infectious sense of fun punctuated by flawlessly aesthetic dance sequences.
On the Town is booking until 1st July at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. Tickets are available here.
Production photography: Johan Persson and Jane Hobson