On the Town at the Boston Pops
Something very special was in the air last week as the Boston Pops continued its centennial celebration of Leonard Bernstein with an all-star, solid gold concert of On the Town, Bernstein’s 1944 masterwork about a trio of sailors with 24 hours to kill in New York City.
Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall has made a career out of transforming creaky old musicals into talk-of-the-town hits. With nine Tony nominations and three wins, Marshall’s uncanny ability to capture lightning in a bottle—which she did most unforgettably with the last Broadway revivals of Wonderful Town and The Pajama Game—was on delirious display at Symphony Hall in a lightly staged, flawlessly performed concert version of On the Town.
The three sailors were played to perfection by Brandon Victor Dixon, Andy Karl, and Christian Dante White, who all oozed effortless leading-man charm and ineffable chemistry with co-stars Georgina Pazcoguin, Megan Lawrence, and Laura Osnes. Osnes and Karl, in particular, had such delicious chemistry that we’re bound to see them paired up together onstage sometime soon, and Dixon’s “Lonely Town” could have gone on all evening and it would have been fine by me. Rounding out the cast was the great Marc Kudisch and the incomparable Andrea Martin who—let’s face it—none of us quite deserve.
It’s rather tragic that something so perfect was performed only twice, but worry not, lovers of musical theater: The full company will reunite with Keith Lockhart and the Pops on July 7 at Tanglewood, a mere two hours west of Boston or three hours north of New York City. This On the Town is the best excuse to get out of town this summer.
Sweeney Todd at Theater UnCorked
Another brand-new theater company was birthed last Saturday at First Church Cambridge in Harvard Square where Theater UnCorked presented a one-night-only concert version of Sweeney Todd, complete with a cast of 34 and an orchestra of 16.
I’m on the fence about whether or not we really need another theater company in Boston, but it’s hard to argue with the ambition of Shana Dirik, UnCorked’s artistic director who also starred as Mrs. Lovett. The sheer scale of the operation was an impressive thing, and any theater company that begins its life with a full Sondheim concert is all right by me. And it would appear that I’m not alone: There wasn’t a seat to be found.
It was as impeccably sung as any Sweeney I’ve ever seen; I remain bowled over by the effortlessness of the performances. As Mrs. Lovett, Dirik was a marvel, and Ben Discipio’s Sweeney was first rate. (Both have played the roles before.) Jordan Reynolds’s “Johanna” was a highlight, as was Alex Boyle’s velvet smooth “Not While I’m Around.”
The evening was plagued by sound problems (churches are not known for their state-of-the-art sound systems), but the concert was a success nonetheless. What first seemed insurmountable (entire songs were unintelligible) amounted to little more than an annoyance as the gusto and passion more than made up for the sonic woes.
Small theater companies come and go all the time in Boston, but few have arrived with such fanfare. We won’t hear from Theater UnCorked again until November when Bobbie Steinbach will direct a staged reading of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and they promise to announce their first full production this fall.
Keep your eyes peeled.
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.