July 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm EDT | by Patrick Folliard
Retro-fun ‘On the Town’ is musical feast at Olney
On the Town review

From left are Sam Ludwig, Rhett Guter, and Evan Casey in ‘On the Town,’ now playing at Olney Theatre Center. (Photo: Stan Barouh; courtesy Olney)

‘On the Town’
Through July 22
Olney Theatre Center
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road

Olney Theatre Center is finishing up its 80th season with a rousing production of the madcap chestnut “On the Town.” The 1944 musical with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Broadway’s most celebrated bisexual Leonard Bernstein, boasts ambitious choreography, gorgeous songs and lots of laughs.

The plot is uncomplicated yet zany: three sailors have 24 hours of shore leave in New York City before returning to active duty. During that time, each young man has a self-assigned mission to accomplish. Girl-crazy party animal Ozzie (Sam Ludwig) wants to meet women; small town boy-turned-war hero Gabey (Rhett Guter) is looking for a girl like his high school sweetheart; and Chip (Evan Casey), the brains of the trio (which isn’t saying much), is intent on seeing the sights.

While riding the subway, Gabey falls in love with the photo of Miss Turnstiles for the month of June.  The poster says she’s a New Yorker with a wide variety of interests ranging from homemaking to polo, so Gabey decides to track her down. His pals agree to help find her.

While searching the city for Miss Turnstiles, Chip and Ozzie connect with romantic interests of their own. Chip becomes quickly involved with Hidly Esterhazy (Tracy Lynn Olivera), a man-hungry cabbie who doesn’t waste time and insists on taking the sailor back to her place. And at the Museum of Natural History, girl-crazy Ozzie meets Claire DeLoone (Rachel Zampelli), a ditzy anthropologist who is mad for good-looking young men, a passion she shares with her milquetoast husband Pitkin W. Bridgework (hilariously played out actor Bobby Smith).

As luck would have it, Gabey eventually finds Miss Turnstiles, whose actual name is Ivy (the graceful Claire Rathbun) at Carnegie Hall where she’s receiving instruction from the highfalutin, but hard-drinking voice teacher Madam Maude P. Dilly (Donna Migliaccio). Ivy aspires to a career as a classically trained singer but in the meantime, she makes ends meet hoochie dancing at a seedy club in Coney Island.

Out director Jason Loewith has carefully selected a terrific cast. The show features some truly wonderful comic turns particularly Olivera’s Hildy and Zampelli’s Claire. Also, Suzanne Lane is a hoot as Lucy Schmeeler, Hildy’s nerdy roommate with a head cold who encounters her destiny on a blind date gone wrong.

The production could benefit from some tightening, especially in the second act when the gang of couples do some serious nightclub hopping. It’s a little ungainly.

Tara Jeanne Vallee’s beautifully choreographed street ballets and jazzier numbers are executed with varying degrees of success by the show’s large and very game cast. The 14-person orchestra led by Christopher Youstra is perfectly on point. They do the score justice particularly with the upbeat number most closely identified with the show “New York, New York,” and other more poignant songs like Gabey’s “Lonely Town” and “Some Other Time” sung by Calire, Hildy, Ozzie and Chip.

Court Watson’s pure 1940’s set with its vintage signage and Manhattan skyline, along with Rosemary Pardee’s excellent period costumes, help to create the excitement surrounding fabled New York, a city where a guy or gal can find romance at a moment’s notice.

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