On the Town is a 1944 musical comedy written 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 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 adapted into a 1949 MGM film directed by Stanley Donen, which featured Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett, 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. It got a Broadway revival in 2013, just in time for its 70th anniversary the next year, and was rewarded with a Tony Award nomination.
See also Anchors Aweigh (the first pairing of Kelly and Sinatra).
This musical show includes examples of:
- 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!
- 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"
- Dainty Little Ballet Dancers: The "Miss Turnstiles" ballet has Ivy Smith assuming an improbably wide range of personalities. Ivy and her Leitmotif are presented at first in a delicate "Allegretto di 'Ballet Class'" (which is in 5/4 time), though the ensuing variations on her theme culminate by showing off her athletic side.
- 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 sung by three sailors to express their joy about the splendor of the city. "New York, New York" is often cited as the first Hollywood musical number shot entirely on-location, and though there are certain prior examples (such as MGM's 1929 Hallelujah!, shot entirely on-location), "New York, New York" is easily the most extensive and noted. In a few shots, particularly Rockefeller Center, throngs of crowds can be seen just off-camera, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars.
- 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 in New York City ten years after the war's end. It was originally conceived as an actual sequel to On the Town.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Too bad about that dinosaur skeleton.