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 (42ND STREET, A CHORUS LINE, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES) directs and choreographs extensively across the US, with notable productions at some of America’s finest regional and off-Broadway theatres. Their visit has brought a level of excitement and energy that student performers will carry with them for their entire careers. Walden says, “All the choreography in ON THE TOWN has to be intrinsically linked to the clear storytelling of 3 sailors on leave for 24 hours in New York City. 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.” says 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. 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.”
Music Director, F. Wade Russo leads the largest musical ensemble Wright State Theatre has ever presented performing one of the musical theatre’s landmark scores. Russo says, “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. 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 & 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.”
ON THE TOWN is directed by Joe Deer (Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre), choreographed by Guest Artist Josh Walden, music directed by F. Wade Russo (Faculty Music Director) with Scenic Design by Pam Lavarnway (Emeritus Professor of Design), Lighting Design by Prof. Matthew Benjamin, Costume Design by Zoe Still (Instructor of Design) and student Associate Costume Designer Carrie Wieland. Properties are designed by resident Properties Master John Lavarnway, Sound by Department Sound Designer James Dunlap and Technical Direction by Kevin Nedberg (Department Technical Director). The production is Stage Managed by guest artist Nia Burns, with student Assistant Stage Managers Sarah Rowell and Juliette Trumbull. Major support for this production comes from The Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State University and several private donors.
ON THE TOWN performs from March 17-April 8 (the last week of March will be off for Wright State’s annual ArtsGala). For tickets and information, contact Wright State Creative Arts Center Box Office atwww.wright.edu/theatre or (937) 775-2500