On The Town
Gershwin Theatre, NYC - November 1998
Review by John Kenrick
This review is quick, but not easy to write and I fear not much fun to read, either. But then, the new revival of On The Town is not much fun to see. In fact, it is a disaster.
Lea DeLaria is a musical-comedy cyclone that smashes through the boredom and ineptitude that surround her in this production. She blows the audience sky-high with her rendition of "I Can Cook Too." Jonathan Freeman also scores with a brilliant comic performance as Judge Bridgework. In a happier age, these superlative performers would be headed to stellar theatrical careers. As it is, they must settle for being the only high points in a long evening.
This ugly and lifeless production has no real reason to exist. It was a critical failure in Central Park, and would never have come to Broadway unless director George C. Wolfe had practically forced it there. Wolfe triumphed with Jelly's Last Jam and Bring In Da Noise, but he hasn't the foggiest idea how to handle a traditional musical like On The Town.
Imagine having Gaby walk offstage midway through "Lonely Town" while the orchestra played the bridge, only to saunter back on for verse two at stage level this is supposed to be Broadway, not second-rate Vegas! Choreographer Keith Young is an unknown and richly deserves to remain that way. Thanks to Wolf & Young, a game cast and a classic musical wind up looking hopelessly dull and dated. This revival is dead on arrival stay away.
Like I said, quick and easy, but not fun.
Addendum - When Wolfe announced that the early closing of this production was due to public and critical disinterest, he was insulting the public and lying to himself. If he seeks the cause for this failure, he should start by checking out the nearest mirror.