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Remembering the original On the Town during World War II

A stunning new production of On the Town, directed by John Rando, opened in October at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway. It transports a viewer back to the golden age of American musical theater, when highly skilled orchestras delivered a robust sound while extended segments of dance were central to telling the story.

Carol J. Oja’s Bernstein Meets Broadway: Collaborative Art in a Time of War explores the very first production of On the Town, which opened in December 1944, towards the end of World War II. It marked the Broadway debut of a soon-to-be-famous creative team, with Leonard Bernstein as composer, Betty Comden and Adolph Green as lyricists and book-writers, and Jerome Robbins as choreographer. There were many audacities to this youthful production. The star was the gorgeous Japanese-American dancer Sono Osato, even as her father was among the Japanese nationals interned in the United States. The stage manager was Peggy Clark, who was among the earliest women to serve in that role on Broadway. The cast included six African Americans, who were intentionally presented as part of a multicultural citizenry, avoiding pernicious racial stereotypes of the era.

Headline image credit: Theater spotlights. CC0 via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. […] successes are heartening, yet they are taking place some seventy years after the breakthroughs of On the Town. Here we are, decades later, still celebrating racial “firsts” in the realm of high-profile […]

  2. Don Trott

    In the photo caption for The Revuers, John Frank is the man in the center and Alvin Hammer is the man on the lower left of the photo. Many thanks for a wonderful website.

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