Did the critics go overboard for Danny Mac in On The Town?
Drew McOnie's production opened at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre last night
Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage
"The musical was based on a radical ballet, choreographed by Jerome Robbins – him of West Side Story fame. And director-choreographer Drew McOnie has taken On the Town right back to its roots. This show is all about the movement."
"Three provincial sailors – Gabey, Chip and Ozzie – come off a boat to spend 24 hours in New York – a city which, in their eyes, is full to brimming with the American Dream. The potential for sights, scenes and, well, seducing, is unlimited. Between them they hatch a plan to find the lady Gabey has just fallen for – a woman he sees on a poster on the subway who has won 'Miss Turnstiles' for the month of June."
"On paper it all sounds horribly one-track-minded and more than a little dated in its treatment of women. But in reality it's played out with charm, character and class."
"The show is all about the dance, yes, but it is also all about the ladies. McOnie's production begins a little lukewarm, but by the time Lizzy Connolly's Hildy is on stage in her waistcoat and breeches, On the Town finds its feet and runs. It is Connolly, Siena Kelly as Ivy and Miriam-Teak Lee as Claire who steal this show."
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
"On the Town is, like its predecessors, very good, but it's best appreciated by the head rather than the heart. I admired it throughout, but was almost constantly emotionally unengaged."
"The leads here, including Strictly Come Dancing finalist Danny Mac as the lovestruck Gabey, are efficient and affable, without ever coming close to stamping themselves on our memories. "
"The real star of the evening, however, is the supple and sinuous choreography from Drew McOnie, who also directs. Dance dominates, which should come as no surprise given that the source material was a ballet by Jerome Robbins."
"The alfresco intimacy of this space works best with rounded characters and an involving narrative in which the audience can get immersed as darkness descends. It's all credit that the Open Air Theatre has set itself such very high standards."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"I can't see anyone complaining that this Open Air revival by director-choreographer Drew McOnie has cut corners. It looks exquisite, and sounds gorgeous, rising to the bravura challenge of the score with its clarinet siren wails, clownish shifts of tempo, and thrilling collision of jazz age dreaminess with bombardments of brass."
"There's a tireless company of 27, an equally industrious band of 15 and, while nothing could match the star-power of the 1949 MGM film (which boasted Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra), the casting of Strictly Come Dancing finalist Danny Mac isn't bad going, nor is the presence of Maggie Steed in the minor comic role of addled singing-teacher Madame Dilly."
"But, although it summons the energy of the city that never sleeps it's also faintly exhausting to watch – and with a storyline powered principally by hormones, you can go hungry for drama, even if Betty Comden and Adolph Green's lyrics remain remarkably spry and amusing. "
"McOnie pointedly adds a shadowy, sultry-sorrowful male-on-male pas de deux for poignant measure too. Very charming, all told, then, but not irresistibly so."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
"As more performers than you think possible twist and spring and strut and swing in midair, this amphitheatre in Regent's Park fills with spring fever. The boys — Gabey, Ozzie (Samuel Edwards) and Chip (Jacob Maynard, doing a great job replacing an injured Fred Haig) — are all up for it."
"So too, though, are the girls. Lizzy Connolly has fun as the flagrant blonde Hildy. Miriam-Teak Lee is beautifully blithe as the sexed-up archaeologist Claire de Lune."
"If for a while it feels as if all these mating games make for a show that's diverting rather than profound, eventually all this torrid tomfoolery gets rooted in a strong sense of the transience of youth, of passion, of fun, of nights out. "
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
"McOnie's choreography nods to Robbins' original moves, but it has a freshly minted zing of its own that captures the youthful, glad-to-be-alive exuberance of its protagonists."
"All three [male leads] are immensely likable, even if they don't ooze the charisma of Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin in the 1949 movie version."
"The women are much more distinctive. Siena Kelly's Ivy dances every step is if her life depends on it; Lizzy Connolly is hilarious as Hildy, never more than in the sexually ravenous number "I Can Cook Too"; and Lee ratchets up the comedy as anthropologist Claire, who with disgraceful abandon throws over her strong and stable fiance for 24 hours of living life to the full."
"As everyone sings, New York is "a helluva town", and this breezy, joyful navy lark is a helluva lot of fun."
Alice Saville, Time Out
"Drew McOnie's revival takes the original show's camp factor and edges it in pink maribou feathers. The costumes are Skittles-bright, the quips are acid, and the dance routines that fill it are peppy enough to start a cola factory."
"This winning bunch do a lot to carry us through a determinedly silly story. They can't stop the second half from losing steam through dance number after dance number – especially since the McOnie's reimagined routines don't have the mad tap-dancing intensity of the original. But they bring a breezy charm to this sailor-suited helping of retro sauce."
On the Town runs at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 1 July.