NORMAN — The excitement of one of its earliest numbers, the iconic, “New York, New York,” was a little hard to live up to, although a large cast gave it a good try in a preview of “On the Town” at the University of Oklahoma.
In the 1944 Leonard Bernstein musical, the romantic relationships of the three sailors on leave for 24 hours in the big city sometimes seemed forced and contrived, and didn't always connect, convincingly enough, with ensemble dance segments.
But this didn't keep the cast of some 45 from giving it their all, and their audience at least an inkling of what it must have felt like for three Navy men to be at liberty “on the town,” for only one day, before going to war.
Filling the roles of the three sailors were Jacob Chancellor as Chip, Dan Horn as Ozzie and Cory Lingner as Gabey.
Chancellor and Horn brought the right exuberant energy to their parts, while Lingner was a little more restrained as a farm boy determined to find the girl of his dreams.
Armed with attitude and a strong voice, Alie Walsh as Hildy, a taxi driver, seized not only the day, but Chancellor's Chip, nearly forcing him to “Come Up To My Place” for hanky-panky.
Equally outrageous was a song in which Rebecca Ashton as Claire gets “Carried Away” with Ozzie.
Their torrid affair made it even funnier when Claire's fiance, Pitkin, played with hilarious, unbelievable forbearance by Sam Briggs, finally exploded, and dropped his “I Understand” policy toward her.
More problematic but entertaining was Gabey's fixation on the subway's Miss Turnstile for the month, an aspiring singer-dancer who actually works in a Coney Island dive.
Lingner was at his best singing “Lonely Town” in act one and an “Imaginary Coney Island” dream dance in act two.
Audra Bryant got across the multitalented of Miss Turnstile, bullied by her drunken and domineering music teacher, played with panache by Kyra Wharton.
Much lower key was a vignette in which Claire and Ozzie, and Hildy and Chip, realize that their brief fling is about over, but they may meet again, “Some Other Time.”
Other assets were a live pit orchestra conducted by Paul Christman, and Ethan Hartman's versatile set.
More than a little dated, and “over the top,” at times, but enjoyable and performed with great pizazz by the OU company, the season-finale production, directed and choreographed by Lyn Cramer, is well worth attending.
— John Brandenburg