Dayton Theater has had a great winter. Name a theater company in the area and you will likely find a good review for their most recent endeavor. Most of those shows were based on contemporary, more recent scripts, Titles that are ‘of the now.’ So imagine how refreshing it was to see a good old-fashioned Broadway Show at the Gem of Musical Theater…WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY.
I’m not going to lie…when I suggested ‘On The Town‘ to friends and family, there were questions….’You Mean Like The Movie on TMC?’ or ‘On the Town...the sailor story…wasn’t that Sinatra?’ or ‘Wright State is Doing ‘On the Town?’ That’s an undertaking!’ I assured them, you can trust Joe Deer (Director) and the entire team! This team includes Music Director F. Wade Russo, who leads a 19 piece ‘on-stage’ orchestra! That alone is old-school magic. The show is around 80 years old…yes, 80 years old…but this production is alive and vibrant with choreography by Broadway’s Josh Walden. The dances are at times intricate and mesmerizing, and then, whimsical and bouncy! These kids can DANCE, and Walden obviously trusted their talents! They cover it all. From Ballet to 40’s Swing, the cast captures it.
‘But is it fun?‘ You ask? ‘The Movie was fun!‘ And it is. The sets harken to post war NYC and are a great blend of silly (T-Rex) and sound (the subway scenes.) Joe Deer’s direction allows the actors freedom to be goofy in those tongue-in-cheek moments, and reels in back in when the show returns to romance. It must be said that WSU’s version takes on the entire Leonard Bernstein score…..WOW! WOW! WOW! That’s an undertaking alright! You will recognize many of the songs, and may leave with ‘New York, New York- A Helluva town…the Bronx is up but the Battery’s down…’ repeating in your head.
It’s hard to highlight the cast individually as they all take on their role with spirit and enthusiasm. Tanner Gleeson (Gabey) is hard not to watch with his expressive presence and spot-on dancing. Amy VanDyke (Ivy) pairs well with him as the love interest. Their Coney Island scene garnered applause mid-dance…it was well executed. The other lead couples Ben Ohnemus (Chip) & Trinity Wolff (Hildy) and John Cuozzo (Ozzie) & Melissa Mataresse (Claire) keep the show moving forward with laughs and lunacy! Kevin Lausche‘s role as Pitkin was an obvious audience favorite as well. Just as enthusiastic are the musicians who handled the extensive score splendidly.
Look, big musicals are not easy to execute. There are so many moving parts, and each domino has to fall just right! And for this cast and crew it worked…beautifully. As I was leaving the theater, a patron said ‘Those students must be exhausted. They never stopped!’ My response…’Let’s hope they never do!’ Whatever magic happened that day, from a script now 8 decades old, with students in their twenties, is what theater should do! Leave you wondering….’How did they do that?’ Bravo WSU….for two and half hours, we were ‘Carried Away!’
Performances take place April 6 at 7 p.m.; April 7 and 8 at 8 p.m.; April 8 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for senior citizens and $15 for students.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the Creative Arts Center box office weekdays between noon and 4 p.m.
The show takes place in the Festival Playhouse.