Phils Light Up the Stage with “On the Town”
“New York, New York, a helluva town!”
And the Jesuit Philelectic Society is putting on one helluva show!
With “On the Town,” the Phils light up the stage with one of American musical theater’s bounciest and most urbane musicals. Bearing a score by Leonard Bernstein, and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, it’s also among the more challenging the ensemble has tackled.
Director Kate Arthurs-Goldberg correctly sensed that this was the year to do it. Her three leading men, playing the trio of sailors with just 24 hours shore leave to see all the “sights, lights nights!” of Manhattan, are genuine triple threats, commanding the stage with their acting, singing and dancing.
As Ozzie, senior Thomas Hellmers brings a rich tenor to his songs, and a comic delight to “Carried Away,” playing opposite Lauren Haefele, a Sacred Heart sophomore, as Claire de Loone. As the lovelorn Gabey, junior Eddie Medina is particularly touching with the show’s sweet ballads, such as “Lonely Town.” And with razor-sharp comic timing, senior Henry Mason elicits some of the show’s best laughs. His performance opposite Ellanor Patton, a junior at Isidore Newman School, is a slapstick delight. As the feisty cabbie, Hildy, Patton knocks “I Can Cook, Too,” a comic jewel of a song, out of the park.
In choosing this show for the spring musical, the Phils also were faced with one of the most daunting dance shows in the repertoire. They’ve proven to be on their toes for “On the Town.”
Choreographer Kenny Beck, Class of ’79, draws out some of the best dancing that audiences have seen on the Phils’ stage. Based on the original landmark dances by Jerome Robbins, Beck creates a virile, all-American style of dancing that electrifies the stage.
The richest expression of that dancing comes in lead dancer Matthew O’Neill’s graceful athleticism. The junior’s dancing has a powerful drive as well as sheer elegance. His pas de deux in the second act with Sylvia Owen, a Dominican junior, is a showstopper.
The production is filled with pleasing views throughout. The attention to the period detail in Ron Goldberg’s sets adds satisfying layers. The show looks as sharp as it plays.
The large ensemble cast creates a bustling 1940s Gotham; Arthurs-Goldberg ensures that even performers in the smallest roles offer distinct bits of stage business that bring life to their characters.
Jason Giaccone conducts the offstage band with style, capturing the verve of the Bernstein’s New York City rhythms and the brilliance of the score.
Contributed by Mr. Theodore P. Mahne.
Adult – $15 advanced purchase / $20 at the door
Student – $10 advanced purchase / $15 at the door