On the Town
Music by Leonard Bernstein: Book and lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Adelphi Theatre, Broadway - December 28, 1944 (462 perfs)
Prince of Wales Theatre, London - 30 May, 1963 (53 perfs)
The show opens a few minutes before 6 a.m., at the Brooklyn navy yard. A half-asleep crane driver turns up for work. He is in time to see the day's consignment of sailors erupt from a troop ship, eager for their shore leave. Amongst them are three pals: Chip, who has an old map supplied by his father to track down as many sights as possible; Ozzie, out to meet as many girls as he can; and Gabey, who seeks plain, old-fashioned romance.
In the subway, the friends see a bill-sticker put up a poster announcing 'Miss Turnstiles', the attractive young lady chosen to decorate the city's train stations for the month. Largely idealised, Ivy Smith is studying singing and ballet at Carnegie Hall, painting at the Museum of Modern Art, and is described as a champion sportswoman, home-loving but swingingly into the club scene. This is all too much for Gabey's romantic imagination, and he removes the poster in order to search for ivy. Outraged at this 'vandalism', an old lady calls a cop, who will pursue the three throughout their day.
The trio agree to split up and use the clues on the poster to hunt for Ivy. Alone in the city jungle, the unsuspecting Chip is immediately set upon by a man-hunting woman cabbie called Hildy. Ozzie also gets waylaid when he visits, in error, the Museum of Natural History (he's supposed to be at the Museum of Modern Art) and is admired by female anthropologist Claire for his amazing resemblance to homo pithecanthropus. More trouble with the law ensues when Claire and Ozzie accidentally demolish an intricately constructed dinosaur skeleton before fleeing from the museum.
On his way to Carnegie Hall, Gabey discovers how, even in the city, one can still feel isolated. At Madam Dilly's studio in the Hall, Ivy is having her lessons, which she pays for by taxi dancing at Coney Island. While Madam Dilly steps out to replenish her Scotch, Gabey meets Ivy and arranges a date with her later at Times Square. On her return to the studio, Madam warns Ivy that, in her experience, sex and perfecting one's art definitely do not mix.
At Claire's glitzy apartment, Claire and Ozzie are getting seriously intimate. Meanwhile, at Hildy's place, Hildy is doing her best to seduce Chip. Gabey hopefully awaits Ivy in Times Square, but a reluctant Ivy has been advised by Madam to earn her keep at Coney Island. Instead of Ivy, Gabey's friends meet him, with their girls on their arms.
At the various night-spots - Diamond Eddie's, the Congacabana and the Slam-Bang - the gang frenziedly attempt to cheer up Gabey. At the first club, a terrible girlie routine on stage doesn't help with its negative lyrics. At the next club, the friends try to counteract the effect of the equally dreary entertainment by reminding Gabey that he can rely on them. Finally, prior to returning to the ship, they all head for Coney island on the subway. On the way, in melancholy mood, the friends regret how the 24 hours have flown by.
At Coney Island, Gabey is startled to discover Ivy performing a bump 'n' grind at a booth, but delighted to have found her none the less. The gang of six are now complete, but are suddenly surrounded by the police, who have been pursuing them all day. In the early morning, the police and the girls see the threesome off at the navy yard. As they walk up the gangplank, a new consignment of sailors rush out for shore leave.
Claire de Loon
Judge Pitkin W. Bridgework
- Carried Away
- Come Up To My Place
- I Can Cook Too
- I Feel Like I'm Not Out Of Bed Yet
- I Understand
- I'm Blue
- Imaginary Coney Island Ballet
- Lonely Town
- Lucky To Be Me
- New York, New York
- The Real Coney Island (Dance)
- So Long, Baby
- Some Other Time
- Ya Got Me
Original Broadway Cast - Columbia OS 2028
Original London Cast - CBS SAPG 60005
Studio Cast Recording with Frederica von Stade, Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, Cleo Laine & Tyne Daly - DGG 437 516-2