On the Town is a musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It premiered on Broadway at the Adelphi Theater on December 28, 1944. On the Town was directed by George Abbott with choreography by Jerome Robbins. The musical played a total of 462 performances, and has been revived on Broadway twice, in 1971 and 1998. The original production starred John Battles, Cris Alexander, Nancy Walker, Sono Osato, and Comden and Green.
The musical is admired by many for its extensive integration of dance into its storytelling (Robbins choreographed a number of ballets and extended dance sequences for the show, including the now-famous "Imaginary Coney Island" ballet). The story concerns three U.S. sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City. Each of the three sailors becomes enamored of a particular woman — and New York city itself — and has a number of adventures before their brief period of time ends and they must return to their ship to head off to war, and a very uncertain future.
The show was filmed in 1949 by MGM, though many changes in script and score were made from the original stage version; much of Bernstein's music was dropped in favor of new songs by the studio's Roger Edens. It starred Gene Kelly (who also co-directed with Stanley Donen), Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin, as well as Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen and Betty Garrett. It is notable for its combination of studio and location filming, as a result of Gene Kelly's insistence that they shoot some scenes in the city itself. The movie was an instant success for MGM's "Freed Unit", which went on to produce many more popular musicals into the 1950s.
Although both of the show's Broadway revivals have had their admirers, neither was commercially successful. The 1998 version began life as a summer production of the Public Theater; the show made use of its venue, Central Park's Delacorte Theater in beguiling ways that led critics to disparage the subsequent theater-bound Broadway edition as lifeless and bland by comparison. Lea Delaria's performance as Hildy the taxi driver (and especially her all-stops-out rendition of "I Can Cook, Too") won wide praise, but was not on its own enough to extend the show's brief run.
In 1992, Michael Tilson Thomas led the London Symphony Orchestra and an all-star, crossover cast of opera and theater performers in a semi-staged concert version produced by Deutsche Grammophon and recorded for both CD and video release. Participants included Frederica von Stade, Thomas Hampson, Tyne Daly, Cleo Laine, David Garrison, and, as both narrators and performers, Comden and Green themselves. The resulting recordings included material cut at various stages of the musical's development. Thomas revived this concert edition of the work in 1996 with the San Francisco Symphony, with many of the same performers.
On The Town is now part of English National Opera's repetoire with the next series of performances scheduled for Spring 2007.