ON THE TOWN

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Book & Lyrics by

BETTY COMDEN & ADOLPH GREEN

Music by

LEONARD BERNSTEIN

Originally Staged by

GEORGE ABBOTT

Based on an idea by JEROME ROBBINS

First produced at the Adelphi Theatre on December 28, 1944, with Sono Osato as "Ivy", Betty Comden as "Claire", Adolph Green as "Ozzie" and Nancy Walker as "Hildy".

THREE American sailors come to Manhattan on a short shore-leave. They are Chip, Ozzie and Gabey. New York is a wonderful town ("New York, New York"), and the three sailors are hell-bent for a good time. But each has his own idea of fun, since Chip is serious-minded, Ozzie is happy-go-lucky and Gabey is an incurable romantic. They argue about what to do and where to go, and finally agree to begin their adventures by taking the subway. There Gabey sees a photography of Ivy Smith, selected that month as subway's "Miss Turnstiles". Gabey insists that this is the girl he wants to date. When Chip and Ozzie realize they cannot dissuade Gabey they help him hunt out the girl. Each sets out in a different direction to find her. During the search, Chip meets a woman taxi-driver who is a victim of excessive enthusiasms ("I Get Carried Away"), and whose enthusiasm of the moment is Chip. Ozzie proceeds to the Museum of Natural History, where he comes upon Hildy, an anthropology student, and a girl of many talents ("I Can Cook, Too"). Gabey, during his wanderings about town, comes to Carnegie Hall. There, in one of the studios, he finds Ivy, taking singing lessons.

On the Town was a musical-comedy extension of Fancy-Free, a ballet with choreography by Jerome Robbins and music by Leonard Bernstein, successfully introduced in New York on April 18, 1944. "One of the freshest musicals to come into town in a long time," as Lewis Nichols of the New York Times described it, On the Town had freshness, exuberance and youth. Its breathless pace and feeling of excitement was maintained from opening curtain to the finale by George Abbott's skillful directorial hand. But its value as entertainment, great though it was, is not all that has made this musical comedy such an important event in American theatre. As Leonard Bernstein's first Broadway score and Jerome Robbins' first assignment as choreographer in musical comedy, On the Town helped introduce two creative figures to the American musical theatre who would henceforth make to it a formidable contribution.

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FURTHER STUDIES:

  • West Side Story - A synopsis of the musical by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 880-1.

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