Theatre: On the Town

On the Town is a 1944 musical comedy by Comden And Green, with music by Leonard Bernstein, about the adventures of three sailors on liberty in New York City. Traveling around the city by cab and by subway, they variously visit the Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, Coney Island (in both imaginary and real versions), three nightclubs and two girls' apartments before their twenty-four hours are up.

It began life as a ballet called "Fancy Free" which Choreographer Jerome Robbins worked on using a score by Bernstein; it was about three sailors on leave, but took place entirely around one bar location. Robbins was one of the original creators when it was adapted into a longer musical with scenes and singing, and there are extensive dance sequences, including the Dream Ballet in Act II.

The musical was made into a 1949 MGM film version, which featured Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, and not much of the original score. Comden and Green were around to write the screenplay, so the plot stayed roughly the same.

See also Anchors Aweigh (the first paring with Kelly and Sinatra).


This musical show includes examples of:

  • Big Applesauce ("New York, New York, it's a helluva town...")
  • Brake Angrily: Hildy does this several times in "Come Up to My Place."
  • Cue Card Pause / That Came Out Wrong: "You're Awful"
  • Dream Ballet: "The Imaginary Coney Island," or "A Day in New York" in the film version.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Gabey falls for Ivy's poster and most of the show is his attempt to find her. The two only share around 3 or so scenes together (most of their shared stage time is a dream ballet too).
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The show takes place over 24 hours.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Three males (Gabey, Chip and Ozzie) and three females (Ivy, Hildy and Claire).
  • Here We Go Again: The ending has another three sailors beginning their twenty-four hours in New York.
  • Location Song: "New York, New York" is sang by three sailors to express their joy about the splendor of the city.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "So Long, Baby"
  • Punny Name: Claire de Loon, Chip Offenblock, S. Uperman.
  • Spiritual Successor: The 1955 MGM musical It's Always Fair Weather reunites Gene Kelly and director Stanley Donen, also features a Comden-Green score, and involves a trio of (former) servicemen visiting the Big Apple. It was originally conceived as an actual sequel to On the Town.
  • The Alcoholic: Madame Dilly, Ivy's singing/acting teacher, is always drunk and usually drinking. In fact, Ivy and Gabey have the chance to talk because she stepped out of the studio to get more beer.
    Madame Dilly: I'll be back before you can say Jack Daniels—Jack Robinson!
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Too bad about that dinosaur skeleton.


Alternative Title(s):

On The Town