On the Town Ends With a Shimmer of Misty

September 6, 2015

Misty Copeland in “On the Town.” 

Sometimes I just don’t understand why a terrific Broadway musical closes. On the Town bursts onto the stage with ingenious songs by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, jazzy music by Leonard Bernstein, and a fabulous and funny cast that included, in its last two weeks, Misty Copeland. I saw it at the beginning of the run and again at the end. Every single person in both audiences seemed to have a great time. Joshua Bergasse’s choreography won an Astaire Award; so did Tony Yazbeck for playing Gabey (split with Robert Fairchild for An American in Paris). There are whole scenes of absolute hilarity (often triggered by Jackie Hoffman as the singing coach) and wonderful eccentric dancing by Gabey’s two sidekicks, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves.

Copeland and Tony Yazbek in dream ballet 

And then, in the last two weeks, the picture of loveliness, Misty Copeland, set out on the town. Her ease onstage was beguiling, perhaps even more so than on the ballet stage. The part of Ivy Smith required her to be ridiculously exuberant as the newly minted Miss Turnstiles, and then sag with dejection when a successor girl gets crowned. She had to cede the stage to Hoffman’s uproarious comic gifts, which she did gracefully, and she had to capture Gabey’s imagination—and ours. In the dream sequences, she extended into exquisite lines while also revealing a hint of the soulful, self-effacing girl Ivy Smith is supposed to be. She exuded sweetness and sincerity and didn’t look a bit “athletic,” as in the famous Under Armour commercial.

Pas de Deux in the dream ballet, all photos by Joan Marcus

Misty’s appearance did spike ticket sales the last two weeks, but the fact that On the Town didn’t win any Tonys (this year seemed to favor unconventional musicals) hampered its chances of staying afloat. Even so, it lasted longer than any previous revival of this 1944 musical that began its life as Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.

It’s too bad that more people didn’t get to see Misty in this role, or see On the Town at all. (Megan Fairchild was completely effervescent in the role; I didn’t get to see Georgina Pazcoguin in it.) I was lucky to be able to see it twice. With a show that chock full of wildly loopy characters, and with the choreographic and narrative imagination brimming over the top, you couldn’t possibly absorb it all the first time.