Last year, the Royal Opera House staged its first-ever musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (See News, 16 Dec 2003). Next year, English National Opera will continue the trend of incorporating traditional musicals into the programming of London’s leading opera houses with a star-studded new production of Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 Broadway classic, On the Town. It will run at the Coliseum from 10 March (preview 5 March) through to 24 May 2005 (See News, 30 Sep 2004).

Unusually for ENO, the cast for On the Town will feature stars of the musical stage, including Adam Garcia (Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Birdy on stage; Coyote Ugly, Riding in Cars with Boys on screen), Caroline O'Connor (Mack and Mabel, The Rink, Hot Stuff and, most recently, Bombshells on stage; Moulin Rouge on screen) and Helen Anker (Beautiful and Damned, A Chorus Line, Oklahoma!).

On the Town follows the fast-paced tale of three American sailors – Chip, Ozzie and Gabey – who, during one day’s wartime shore leave, set out to experience the best of New York, not least its ladies – Hildy, Claire and Ivy. Garcia (pictured) will play Chip, the part immortalised in the 1949 screen version by Frank Sinatra. O’Connor is Hildy, Anker is Ivy and Lucy Schaufer is Claire. Further casting for the 65-plus strong company will be announced in January, including the part of Gabey, played by Gene Kelly in the film.

An ENO spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that, as part of the company’s commitment to widening the scope of its repertoire to embrace more musicals (See The Goss, 26 Jul 2004), “The majority of people on stage (for On the Town) will have a musical theatre background, supplemented where necessary by operatic expertise.” Amongst the operatic experts will be leading bass Willard H White in the supporting role of a workman.

On the Town has music by Bernstein, book and lyrics Betty Comden and Adolph Green, based on an idea by Jerome Robbins. The ENO revival will be directed by former West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director Jude Kelly and choreographed by Whatsonstage.com Award winner Stephen Mear (Anything Goes, Mary Poppins), who previously collaborated on WYP’s Singin’ in the Rain in Leeds and at the National. It’s designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Mark Henderson.

- by Terri Paddock