Say what you will about “Spider-Man,” but at least it kept the disturbingly oversized Foxwoods Theatre (recently renamed the Lyric) occupied. Virtually no musical can work in that space except an all-out spectacle along the lines of “Spider-Man” or “42ndStreet.”
One might optimistically believe that “On the Town,” the 1944 musical comedy classic about three peppy, hormonal sailors on 24-hours’ leave in New York City during World War II, could survive there, given that it’s a big, dance-heavy show.
The stage musical is quite different than the 1949 MGM film version, which axed most of Bernstein’s vibrant score (with Comden and Green’s memorable lyrics).
There’s a lot to appreciate about this new Broadway revival, including spirited, sexy performances from its sextet of young lead actors, an unusually large pit orchestra and plenty of dancers to execute expansive new choreography. (The original Jerome Robbins choreography is long lost.)
But in spite of its size, “On the Town” is at heart a fragile show, full of boy-meets-girl romancing, farcical nonsense and lengthy ballet sequences. It is not easy to revive successfully for a contemporary audience.
In its current space, the show is not enlivened so much as exposed as a dated musical theater artifact. Even as some cast members roam the aisles, you feel removed from it, not immersed within it.
While much of the broad comedy fail to land, Jackie Hoffman still manages to tear through the show like a force of nature with her over-the-top antics and countless walk-ons.
The minimal, projection-heavy set design makes the show look especially empty. At a running length of just under three hours, it also could have been trimmed considerably.
As it happens, a revival of “On the Town” played Broadway’s similarly large Gershwin Theatre in 1998 and was a huge flop. How could someone possibly believe this revival won't suffer the same fate?
If you go: “On the Town” plays an open run at the Lyric Theatre. 213 W. 42nd St. onthetownbroadway.com.