Paper Mill Playhouse is one of my favorite theaters in New Jersey. It is also very well known. I have seen a few shows there, one of them being On the Town. My father and I went to see it back in 2009 and I decided to write this piece for The Montclarion. Unfortunately, it was never used. No one has ever seen it until today. I wanted to publish it somewhere, and so now I finally found a home for it. :) So please enjoy one of my lost articles about On the Town.
The musical surrounds a day in the life of three sailors Gabey, Ozzie, and Chip, played by Tyler Hanes, Jeffrey Schecter, and Brian Shepard respectively, on leave in 1944 wartime. The show begins with the trio arriving at New York City by ship at 6AM. In a total of literally twenty-four hours, the sailors and their fellow comrades have a chance to explore New York City before they must return to their ship and embark on their duties. Each guy has his own agenda to accomplish while there: Chip wishes to sightsee the places his father told him about while relying on his guide book, Ozzie just wants to live it up with a few “dames,” but Gabey’s goal is to find his one and only love.
The three begin their adventure on a subway where they regard a poster advertising the most recent “Miss Turnstiles,” a competition of the subway similar to that of Miss America, named Ivy Smith, played by Yvette Tucker. Upon seeing her, Gabey is convinced that she is the girl for him and dedicates the twenty-four hours to finding her and perhaps make a date with her before he leaves town. Beings though they were in New York City, finding one girl in a day seemed impossible. After much consideration, Chip and Ozzie decide to postpone their plans to help their friend.
The three go their separate ways to cover more ground and instead of finding Ivy, Ozzie and Chip each find dames of their own. Chip seeks assistance from recently fired cab driver Hildy Esterhazy (Jennifer Cody), who is more interested to lure Chip into her bed than help him. Ozzie runs into author and anthropologist Claire DeLoone (Kelly Sullivan) at the Museum of Natural History, who is eager to let loose and ditch her workaholic lifestyle and fiancé. Hildy helps Chip to come out of his shell while Ozzie helps Claire to embrace her wild side, and eventually intense make out sessions ensue. At first these two ladies seem to be a distraction of sexual desire in the quest of finding Ivy Smith, but later they prove to be true heroines and the ideal object of affection from their new men.
Surprisingly, Gabey does find Ivy early on, suggesting to the audience that something bad is yet to occur. The suggestion proves true when Ivy is unable to make the date she and Gabey plan due to work. This sets Gabey into a depression and the gang, who eventually reunites with their new girlfriends by their sides, attempts club hopping to cheer him up. However, his business with Ivy is not finished yet.
Not only do the sailors find love in the big city, but they also find trouble. Throughout the course of the play, they each do something to anger someone and these troublesome acts accumulate, causing them to have one additional police officer after another on their tail each time. This is one of the many recurring gags.
Even though On the Town was a musical, there was more dancing than anything, and fine dancing there was, thanks to choreographer Patti Colombo (http://www.patticolombo.net/). Whether it was Gabey’s anguish expressed through movement or Ozzie and Claire just jamming with cavemen, true talent was displayed.
As much fun the musical was, there were points about it that depressed me. Supposedly it was the sailors’ first exposure to New York City, but it could very be their last exposure as well, not only to New York City, but also to freedom itself. When they make their departure, there is no telling in what kind of condition they will return or if they will return at all. It is somewhat irritating because it is possible that this day was their last chance to experience a woman’s love. Gabey, the one who was initially looking for it, spent most of the day searching for Ivy, whereas Ozzie and Chip had their girls the whole day. Contrary to popular belief that a woman needs her man, a man needs his woman just as much. This is proven when the soldiers ogled every girl they saw on stage. When they leave the city, they get to look forward to looking at other men for a good majority of their days. Gee, that’s fun.
On a less sensual note, another message the play sends is that you must live life to the fullest and live every day as though it is your last. I have lived in New Jersey all my life and I rarely travel to New York, mainly because I highly dislike it the congestion. But should I do so more often? Should I take advantage of the wonders New York City has to offer like the sailors did? I could die tomorrow just by walking across the street. Do I do enough each day? These were the questions that ran through my mind while watching the magic happen on stage at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Not only was On the Town entertaining, it makes you think.