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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
ON THE TOWN
at Encores! at City Center

SO LITTLE TIME, SO MUCH TO DO
By MERVYN ROTHSTEIN

  Justin Bohon and Leslie Kritzer/PH: Joan Marcus

The thing about Encores! at City Center is that its musical revivals run for such a brief time. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes - often enough to give it an excellent track record - it's not. On the Town, its revival of the classic Leonard Bernstein-Jerome Robbins-Betty Comden-Adolph Green show from 1944, is one of those that should have stayed around much, much longer.

World War II is on and three sailors have 24 hours' leave, which they want to spend looking at New York City and looking for girls - oh, you know the plot. Jack Viertel, Encore's chief notes in the program that the idea was to highlight the Bernstein score and the Robbins choreography - inspired by their ballet of earlier that year, Fancy Free. So the orchestra is placed center stage, with room in front for the actors and dancers, and more room in back, primarily for dancers. It works.

And what a score - Bernstein's first for Broadway, with &ampampquotNew York, New York," "Lonely Town," "Ya Got Me" and my favorite, moving and deep, "Some Other Time." The dancing too is a delight - the original choreography has disappeared, but Robbins recreated three numbers 20 years ago for Jerome Robbins's Broadway - "New York, New York," "Times Square Ballet" and "Ya Got Me" - and Warren Carlyle has provided the rest in the style of the master.

The cast is almost uniformly enjoyable - Tony Yazbeck, Christian Borle and Justin Bohon as the sailors, Leslie Kritzer, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Jessica Lee Goldyn as their girls. Andrea Martin is often hilarious as the loony voice teacher, though after a while her loony becomes a little too Looney Tunes. Cast members, as at all Encores! performances hold scripts in their hands, and every once in a while the relative lack of rehearsal shows, though director John Rando keeps things going at a suitably frantic pace. We understand - just as the 1944 audiences did - that the sailors are going back to war. their fates uncertain, and no one really knows whether they and their girls will ever be able to catch up "Some Other Time." But who knows about tomorrow anyway, and the bottom line is that for those two and a half hours at City Center, it was all fun.

Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came at the beginning. When the show was first on Broadway, in the middle of that terrible war, the tradition was that it would open with the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner." That tradition was continued at City Center. And as soon as the audience relized what was happening, it rose quickly to its feet. Before long, just about everyone was singing along, loudly and with true passion.

This was a Ndew York theater audience folks, and yet the feeling in the voices was nearly overwhelming. It struck me that after November 4, these New Yorkers finally feel that they have their country back.

 


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