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Set and cast make 'Town' a lively treat

Stage Review

Thursday, July 30, 1998

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The player with the most stage time in Civic Light Opera's "On the Town" doesn't get marquee credit, great lines or even a simple listing in the playbill.

But in Charles Repole's touring revival of the war-time classic, an elaborate working set enables the city of New York to live up to its billing as "a helluva town."

A driveable taxi cab, a moving subway car, 19 scene changes and all the glitter and clutter of city life propel the fast-paced show with the largest and most expensive set ever erected at the Benedum Center. New York becomes the show's central character, offering hope, fueling desire, delivering sex and denying the future to the three anxious sailors on shore leave.

Since its opening in 1944, "On the Town" has inspired three revivals, including the current one that winds up on Broadway in November. Leonard Bernstein's music still echoes the elusive city, and Jerome Robbins' choreography still sweats in what was a revolutionary melding of ballet and modern dance. But the story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green would seem trite today without an overwhelming set portraying the show's pivotal character, New York. Despite a few opening night glitches Tuesday, the hardware brought the city to life.

Jerry Tellier, Randy Redd and Tony Capone as the sailors have no problem playing against such a formidable backdrop. Tellier is predictably dense as the hunky Ozzie who becomes a living specimen to a lusty anthropologist engaged to a local judge. Amanda Naughton is appropriately stiff and lifeless as the clinical Clair De Loone, until she becomes wildly biological for Ozzie.

The methodical sailor Chip becomes quirkier in the second act. Redd stretches the part in his scenes with Evy O'Rourke, who plays the sexy cab driver who takes Chip for the ride of his life. O'Rourke is absolutely irresistible in her singing and dancing scenes.

At the heart of the story is Gabey, a lovelorn swabby who falls head over bell-bottoms for a poster of the subway's June pin-up girl. Capone gives Gabey a soft heart without turning him into a wimp. He delivers his songs with as much style as the best of the '40s crooners.

The object of Gabey's affection, Miss Turnstile Ivy Smith, picks up kerchiefs with her teeth in a harem act, but dreams about a life of glamour and sophistication. Ginger Norman is delicate in her set ballet numbers, but really seems to bond with Capone in dialogue. They're a nice, believable couple and it's easy to want them to finally get together.

After 50 years, parts of "On the Town" may have gotten lost in the gradual shift of public perception. But the idea of a living city, throbbing with vitality and infinite possibility, remains very much alive, particularly on the Benedum stage.


"On the Town"

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $10-$38; 412-456-6666.

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