FAIRBORN — Wright State Theatre will present the landmark dance musical comedy, “On the Town” from March 17-April 8 at Wright State’s Festival Playhouse.
The production will feature Leonard Bernstein’s full score played by an onstage orchestra, and dazzling dances by guest choreographer, Josh Walden.
“On the Town” tells the story of three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York City, at the height of World War II. Exuberant, bursting with youthful energy, optimism, silly humor, romance and exquisite music, Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green reinvigorated contemporary musical theatre when this show premiered in 1944. Though almost 80 years have passed since then, the show retains a freshness and vibrancy that audiences will find undeniably contagious.
Wright State Theatre’s production features a 19-piece onstage orchestra, led by Faculty Music Director F. Wade Russo, that includes students and faculty from the School of Fine and Performing Arts, as well as local professional musicians. This collaboration is a celebration of Wright State’s newly merged arts programs into the School of Fine and Performing Arts. “On the Town” also features exciting new choreography by guest artist Josh Walden. Walden, a long-time Broadway veteran performer directs and choreographs extensively across the U.S., with notable productions at some of America’s finest regional and off-Broadway theatres.
“All the choreography in ‘On the Town’ has to be intrinsically linked to the clear storytelling of three sailors on leave for 24 hours in New York City,” Walden said. “From the launch of the ensemble welcoming the sailors with menacing smiles to the many ballets exploring the longing each character feels to connect, every step needs to be essential and deeply connected to want and need. Now, couple all this with the disciplines of ballet and the stylistic moves of the movie musicals from the 40’s and you have our entire physical score. And the students at Wright State University have all risen to this choreographic challenge with great skill and a full-body commitment. ‘On the Town’ has proven to be a great representation of their true triple-threat status.”
“On the Town” was a revolutionary musical in it’s time that raised the bar for what a Broadway musical could be in just about every way, while still maintaining an incredible sense of joy, romance and silliness, according to Director Joe Deer.
“This new production captures all the energy of that moment and brings it vividly to life in ways that burst off the stage,” he said. “Most of the characters are exactly the age of our students, who have found a joyful connection with the story that’s thrilling to see in rehearsal. And having a full orchestra and the incredible talents of our students, faculty, and staff all harnessed to bring this exuberant show to Dayton is really a dream come true. Our gifted guest choreographer, Josh Walden, has brought a special level of artistry to this production, including four ballets and many other smaller dances that audiences will be dazzled by. I’m truly excited to share this with Dayton.”
Russo leads the largest musical ensemble Wright State Theatre has ever presented performing one of the musical theatre’s landmark scores.
“The collaboration between music and theatre programs on ‘On the Town’ represents Wright State’s commitment to the artistic and professional development of our students,” Russo said. “It gives student musicians the opportunity to work and perform alongside their professors as well as with local professionals to hone their musical skills outside of the concert experience. The score is remarkable. Leonard Bernstein utilizes the jazzy rhythm of Gershwin, the boogie woogie swing style of Glenn Miller and Harry James mixed with the orchestral grandeur of Prokofieff, the contrapuntal precision of Bach and the lyricism of Jerome Kern to reflect the complicated urgency of life in wartime America. Not unlike Lin-Manuel Miranda’s use of hip hop and rap to make the story of ‘Hamilton’ relevant to contemporary audiences.”
For tickets and information, contact Wright State Creative Arts Center Box Office at www.wright.edu/theatre or 937-775-2500.
“On the Town’ will be off the last week of March for WSU’s annual ArtsGala.