You might not have known that the oft sung “New York, New York” came from “On the Town,” a funny, mid-last century musical set in the "Big Apple." But it’s Chicago that’s doing the show proud right now.
The story line starts with the concept of what would you do if you were a sailor let loose with two buddies in New York City for just 24 hours during World War II.
Choreographer Jerome Robbins turned that thought into "Fancy Free" an American Ballet Theatre production with music by Bernstein in 1944. "On the Town" followed with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Both the musical and its original “Fancy Free” ballet were on Chicago stages Aug. 20, 2014. Seventy years after first appearing, “Fancy Free” was performed by the New York City Ballet, downtown Wednesday as part of the Chicago Dancing Festival at the Harris Theater. “On the Town, the ballet’s comedic musical’s counterpart, opened Wednesday up north at Marriott Theatre in suburban Lincolnshire where it runs through Oct. 12, 2014.
Choreographed by Alex Sanchez and directed by David H. Bell, the Marriott production embraces the ballet but also exuberantly interprets the comic aspects.
The daring, dangerous style of New York City cab drivers becomes a hilarious scene as female taxi driver Hildy (Marya Grandy) zooms around Manhattan’s sights while convincing sailor Chip (Seth Danner) to “Come Up to My Place.” The fun continues at her apartment when she sings “I Can Cook Too.”
In a “Night at the Museum” sequence, fun and games take place at the Museum of Natural History as anthropologist Claire (Johanna McKenzie Miller) tape-measures sailor Ozzie (Jeff Smith). It seems like another come-on similar to Hildy’s approach until a follow-up scene back at Claire’s apartment with Pitkin (Alex Goodrich), Claire’s anthropologist fiancé, clarifies interest in Ozzie as a Neanderthal-type specimen. Night-club scenes continue the musical’s comedic strain.
Complicating matters is that Gabey (Max Clayton), the other member of the sailor trio, falls for Ivy Smith (Alison Jantzie) aka "Miss Turnstiles" but is thwarted in his pursuit by her singing coach, Madame Dilly ((Barbara Robertson).
Add in Marriott veteran Nancy Missimi's terrific period costumes that enhance the action and you have a delightful throwback to a bygone era.
But with the exception of the opening and closing “New York, New York” don’t expect a slew of memorable songs. Maybe, if a musical produces one outstanding number, it deserves to pull in Broadway audiences. Its revival opens this fall on Broadway, Sept. 20, 2014. New York audiences are likely to love the show that gave them their “helluva town” song. Meanwhile, Chicago audiences can imagine what having 24 hours to play in New York City might have been like back in 1944 with Marriott Theatre’s take of “On the Town.”
For tickets and more information call 847-634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre