Friday, October 30, 2020

366. ON THE TOWN. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Remak Ramsey, Phyllis Newman, Ron Husmann, Bernadette Peters, Jess Richards.

ON THE TOWN [Musical Revival] B/LY: Betty Comden and Adolph Green; M: Leonard Bernstein; D/CH: Ron Field; S: James Trittipo; C: Ray Aghayan, Bob Mackie; L: Tharon Musser; P: Jerry Schlosser-Vista Productions in the Ron Field Production; T: Imperial Theatre; 10/31/71-1/1/72 (73)

Marilyn Cooper, Tom Avera.

This was a moderately effective revival of the 1944 hit, with three exuberant and highly gifted players in the female leads: Bernadette Peters as Hildy, Phyllis Newman as Claire, and Donna McKechnie as Ivy Smith. A trio of acceptable but lesser lights played their romantic counterparts: Remak Ramsey as Ozzie, Jess Richards as Chip, and Ron Hussmann as Gabey. Ron Fields’s choreographic style replaced Jerome Robbins’s original, but the feel of the show was essentially that of New York in the wartime 40s, although somewhat exaggerated in its treatment of period costumes and hairdos.

Donna McKechnie, Fran Stevens.

The fragile book about three gobs on 24-hours shore leave in the Big Apple, their search for Miss Turnstiles (the Ivy Smith character), whose face they’ve seen on a subway poster, and their ultimate romances with the girls they meet, wasn’t strongly supported by the press. “A handsome and lavish resuscitation” from which, nevertheless, “the bloom is off,” said Clive Barnes. Walter Kerr thought the revival too forced, and noted that the leading ladies “work with the same supercharge of energy, . . . identical vocal thrusts (nearing screeches) and . . . identical physical attacks (nearing mayhem),” thereby making them “indistinguishable.”

Bernadette Peters, Jess Richards.

The show may have seemed dated to some, but its glorious music was far better than most heard in new shows of the time. Peters was “priceless,” thought Harold Clurman, as Hildy, the female cab driver, yet John Simon speared the budding 23-year-old star with a noxious bolt, calling her a “mugging, mouthing little butterball” and “a full-fledged fag-hag,” among other remarks of a similar drift.

Peters one-upped Simon by snaring a Tony nomination as Best Supporting Actress, Musical. Jess Richards, who succumbed to AIDS in 1994, landed a Theatre World Award.