Imagine life in New York City as a sailor on leave in the midst of World War II, with only one day to have the time of your life.
This footloose and fancy free spirit is captured in the University of Oklahoma’s upcoming production of “On the Town,” a Broadway musical that mirrored real life when it originally opened in 1944.
The show promises to be a humorous jaunt through the Big Apple as it tells the story of three sailors on a 24-hour long shore leave, set to the famed music of Leonard Bernstein.
With music favorites such as “Come Up to My Place,” “Lucky to Be Me,” and “New York, New York,” the production comes packed full of both romance and humor.
“It is a dance musical. Dance is the storytelling component of the show, but I also don’t think people realize how funny the show is, how comedic it is,” Director Lyn Cramer said. “All scenes are very tight, the comedy is fast paced and really fun.”
The humor in the show is historically significant. Cramer said in its opening in 1944, service men and women would see the production on Broadway before going off to war. The experience was uplifting.
“This was the one show they saw before they left, because it’s about cramming everything you can as a young person into 24 hours of fun,” she said. “When you’re going off to war and you don’t know if you’re going to come back, it can be a very daunting thought.”
Cramer said “On the Town” is a production years in the making for OU. Because it is so enormous in scope, the show is seldom produced by anyone except for professional companies with a lot of money.
It’s one of the reasons Cramer said she is so excited to see OU tackle the show.
She said because of the high levels of dance, music and acting skills needed, the production is difficult to execute successfully. But it is one Cramer said she knew would be possible this year.
“We knew about two years ago that we would end up this year with the people that we needed to fill the roles,” she said. “You can kind of project it once you know what your enrollment is and who’s moving up, who can maybe have the real tools to do these roles.”
The project required participation from talent campus-wide, and is a collaboration between the theater department, the School of Dance and School of Music.
“We couldn’t do this show without the School of Dance because the original choreography was Jerome Robbins, one of the most renowned and legendary ballet choreographers in the world. It requires a caliber of ballet that is tough to get sometimes from musical theater majors,” Cramer said, adding that the show’s leading man, Cory Lingner, who plays a sailor named Gabey, happens to be talented on both fronts.
Cramer said the cast consists of 45 performers, with the crew and creative team twice that size. Rehearsal time has been doubled, going from a normal time frame of six weeks, to their current workload of over 12 weeks of preparation.
And all of this work is the perfect way to cap off college for Lingner, who graduates this year.
“This part is a dream come true for me, and I couldn’t see a better way to finish my college experience [than] by doing this show,” he said.
Lingner agrees with the importance of the “seize the day” message behind “On the Town.”
“It’s definitely about [trying] to cram in as much as you can, what you as a person would want to do with the time that you’re given,” Lingner said.
Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. April 26, 27 and May 2-4, and 3 p.m. April 28 and May 5 at the OU Reynolds Performing Arts Center, 560 Parrington Oval.
Tickets are $30 adult, $25 senior adult, OU faculty and staff, and military and $15 student. Tickets may be purchased by calling 405-325-4101, or in person at the OU Fine Arts Box Office, 500 W. Boyd St., in the Catlett Music Center.