In 1944 Jerome Robbins choreographed a ballet featuring three sailors called Fancy Free. It gained further acclaim when it was made into the Broadway musical On the Town and then a film version, which starred Jules Munshin, Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.
Robbins became one of the most revered choreographers of a generation when he went on to score further success with West Side Story and so it seems apt that Drew McOnie should be the one to revive his work at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
McOnie is following in his footsteps – or time steps – in becoming the most talked about choreographer in recent years, with his Olivier win for In the Heights followed by acclaimed productions of The Wild Party (which he also directed), Bugsy Malone and his company’s fabulous take on the Jekyl and Hyde story at the Old Vic.
Like with many of the traditional old musicals, the story takes a back seat in On the Town, with the dancing becoming the main focus of the show. McOnie has perfectly captured the pastiche of the piece by incorporating the Jazz dance style influences of Robbins, but with an added contemporary twist and in the big ensemble numbers you can feel the energy emanating from the stage.
Three young sailors land in New York hoping to find love. They embark on a search for a girl they have seen on a poster and along the way stumble upon all of the glorious sights the city has to offer.
Danny Mac leads the cast as Gabey – fresh from the finals of Strictly Come Dancing – and shows he is a real triple threat performer. His dancing has beautiful fluidity, which is disarmingly appealing. He works well with Samuel Edwards and Jacob Maynard (a last-minute replacement), who both give great performances and their relationships with the girls aren’t too painfully chauvinistic, as is often the case with a show from this era.
Lizzy Connely showcases her comedic chops as taxi driver Hildy, really lifting the spirits with her every entrance, while Sienna Kelly and Miriam Teak Lee help her to steal the show from the chaps with their fabulous dance numbers proving to be the most spectacular.
The joyful nature of the production is enhanced by the glorious amphitheatre at Regent’s Park and despite the slightly dubious storyline you feel like you’ve been on a happy journey by the end of the show.
On the Town will leave you dancing into the night and is a great way to spend a summer evening.
Review by Georgie Harwood
Photo by Johan Persson