New York, New York—it’s a helluva town. Broadway. Central Park. Times Square. Rockefeller Center. American Museum of Natural History. The list of sites is never-ending. Limit the time you have to spend in the city to 24 hours, and where do you even begin? There are places to go and people to see, but only one day to fit it all in!
During World War II, a group of sailors are given a 24-hour shore leave in New York City. This will be their last hours in the U.S before shipping off to war, and they all have different ideas as to how to spend that time. The Opera House Theatre Company’s newest production, “On the Town,” follows Chip, Ozzie and Gabey’s journey through the big city as they find adventure and romance at every turn, and it’s all set to music.
Opening on Broadway in 1944, “On the Town” starred John Battles, Cris Alexander, and the lyricist/writing duo of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Of course, most people will remember the film version of the production starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, and Betty Garrett.
The Opera House Theatre Company’s production will be directed and choreographed by Judy Greenhut. Greenhut, no stranger to the stage, already knows the show well. She directed the “50th Anniversary European Tour” in 1995—a tour so popular that she employed three separate Equity companies. This is the show that she is going to bring to life here in Wilmington.
“Who could ‘improve’ upon Leonard Bernstein, Comden and Green—and based loosely on a ballet ‘Fancy Free’ by Jerome Robbins?” Greenhut asks. “These are some of the greatest minds in the world of musical theatre.”
Working with Greenhut are Teri Collins (set) and Debbie Scheu (costumes). Their main goal is to bring 1940’s New York to life in glimmering fashion. The sets have been fun to create, and Greenhut adds that Scheu’s costumes are “the icing on the cake.” Musical director Lorene Walsh will lead the score. “Her orchestras are always wonderful,” Greenhut says. “This one is quite a challenge, as all Bernstein scores are.”
“The music is beautiful, too,” Jason Aycock, who plays Gabey, adds. “[It’s] some of the most intriguing and complex music I’ve ever heard in a show.”
The cast takes on the challenge of becoming triple threats—singing, dancing, and acting their way through the story. “They bring love, humor, warmth, and tons of talent,” Greenhut exudes. “This could have been an impossible show to cast due to the fact that they all needed to sing, dance and act, in no particular order.”
The cast agrees. Adam Poole, who will bring to life Ozzie, admits the choreography has not been his strong suit. “I’m not a trained dancer but boy am I enthusiastic!” he says. “I’m learning a lot and having a blast.”
Aycock’s challenge has come in playing a character opposite of his own makeup. Gabey is a more solemn guy. “I love being around people and having fun, so being on the other side of it is really different for me,” he says. “He’s a romantic and falls in love with a picture and spends his whole day looking for this one girl out of all of NY. So he’s a bit mopey throughout the show while the others are having a fun time.”
The love the cast has for their characters and this story is evident in the work they are devoting to the production. Poole comments, “Nothing like a sailor on leave! I love the energy that my character brings out in me.”
Aycock adds, “It’s an older style Broadway musical that just has so much fun with the storytelling.”
The cast also includes: James Ellison as Chip, Heather Setzler as Hildy Esterhazy, Rachael Moser as Lucy Schmeeler, Kendra Goehring-Garrett as Claire, Christopher Rickert as Claire’s Fiance, Brooklyne Williamson as Ivy Smith, and Michelle Reiff as Madam Dilly. “I have the best of the best!” Greenhut exclaims.
“On the Town” opens Wednesday, July 2nd, and the show will continue every weekend through Sunday, July 20th.
On the Town
July 2nd-6th, 11th-13, 18th-20th
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut St.