What fun to be in Broadway tryout territory. In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was something shocking, and New Haven was an important stop before New York. Tanking in New Haven, not a good sign. Neil Simon premiered something like 8 plays here, and lots of musicals got their start in New Haven’s theater district.
Now, New Haven has its own thriving theater scene, and the launch pads have moved more to the mountains. The Berkshire Mountains. So today, I made my first of 3 day trips to the Berks to see a show that definitely should be on its way to the Great White Way. Great Barrington Theater Company isn’t in Great Barrington. Naturally. It’s in Pittsfield.
And it’s corny enough to have an enormous flag mounted on stage before the show started, with the orchestra playing the Star Spangled Banner as its opening notes. The audience stood up and sang along. It was truly rousing.
On the Town from 1944 hasn’t worked too well in Broadway revivals to date. Too creaky apparently. But this version? Wowza! Sexy, contemporary, witty, stylish, breathlessly fast-paced. Opera, jazz, tap, ballet, scat singing, rounds, and the rumba. Exuberant dancing and singing that didn’t make me miss the Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra/Ann Miller/Betty Garrett/Vera-Ellen/Jules Munshin movie one bit. After all, it’s still Leonard Bernstein music with Comden and Green lyrics.
I did get a bit wistful when the boys sang, “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town.” But Ben Brantley from the New York Times said it best, “The production runs only through July 13, giving it the mayfly-like life span of the romances it portrays. Normally, I wouldn’t tell citizens of the five boroughs to drive three hours to be told that New York is a helluva town. But this enchanted vision of a city that was — and of course never was — is worth catching before it evaporates.”