Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 10, 2018

REVIEW: Tanglewood, “On the Town”

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 7, 2018
by Michael J. Moran
On The Town cast, Photo Courtesy BSO

A rollicking semi-staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s first Broadway musical highlighted Tanglewood’s opening weekend and got its “Bernstein Centennial Summer” tribute to the beloved musical icon whose half-century presence there is still treasured off to a thrilling start.

The opulent sound of the Boston Pops Orchestra under the seasoned leadership of Keith Lockhart (ably doubling as the evening’s narrator) in the lively Overture made it clear that this would be no ordinary “On the Town.” Marc Kudisch’s commanding baritone slowed things down briefly for New York City to wake up at 6:00 am in “I Feel Like I’m Not Out of Bed Yet.” After the three sailors who get a day pass to explore the city then burst into exuberant anticipation in “New York, New York,” the pace never slackened as the rest of the shown followed their adventures through the next 24 hours.  

There wasn’t a weak link in the cast of Broadway veterans. As the sailors, Brandon Victor Dixon was an affecting Gabey, Andy Carl an oversexed Ozzie, and Christian Dante White a kind-hearted Chip. As their love interests, Georgina Pazcoguin brought balletic grace to Ivy (“Miss Turnstiles”) Smith, Laura Osnes gave anthropologist Claire De Loone zany sophistication, and Megan Lawrence invested taxi driver Hildy Esterhazy with brash high spirits. Kudisch’s dapper judge (Claire’s stuffy fiance) and three characters hilariously played by Andrea Martin, especially a drunken music teacher, were laugh riots whenever they appeared.

Much credit goes to director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall for balancing the urgent forward motion with quiet intervals which allowed Dixon’s poignant “Lonely Town” and the ensemble’s  heartfelt “Some Other Time” their full emotional resonance. Marshall put the wide but shallow Koussevitzky Music Shed stage to imaginative use, placing movement and extensive dancing from center to both far sides, with minimal and multi-functional props. Michael Krass’s costume design richly rendered the fashions of wartime 1940s New York.

Upcoming programs in Tanglewood’s “Bernstein Centennial Summer” include: his 1952 one-act Opera “Trouble in Tahiti” (July 12); the 1962 movie “West Side Story” with live BSO accompaniment (July 28); the 1977 song cycle “Songfest” (August 4); the 1983 full-length opera “A Quiet Place” (August 9); the 1956 Broadway show “Candide” (August 22-23); and a gala celebrity-studded career-wide selection on his birthday (August 25).