Seventy Years Of Broadway's 'On The Town'

Seventy years after its first production, “On the Town” is back on Broadway.  We’ll look at the collaboration that led to the creation of this jubilant show.

The cast of the current Broadway revival of "On The Town" in a preview performance. (Courtesy On The Town)

The cast of the current Broadway revival of “On The Town” in a preview performance. (Courtesy On The Town)

70 years ago, four brilliant young theatrical talents came together to create an American stage classic. On the Town, about three sailors looking for love on a 24-hour shore leave in New York. The 1944 original became a film starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. And now it’s back in a third revival on Broadway that New York Times critic Ben Brantley calls jubilant. We’ll talk to him, and to the son of one of the original writers. This Hour, On Point: The making, and remaking, of On the Town.

– John Harwood


Ben Brantley, chief theater critic for the New York Times.

Adam Green, theater critic for Vogue, contributor to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Son of Adolph Green, one of the original lyricists for “On The Town.” (@Adam___Green)

Josh Bergasse, dance teacher and choreographer. Choreographer for the new Broadway revival of “On The Town.” (@JoshBergasse)

Billie Allen Henderson, actress, dancer, director. Was in the original Broadway “On The Town” in 1944.

From The Reading List

Vanity Fair: Innocents on Broadway — “This year would have been my father’s 100th birthday, and it would have made him indecently proud to see it marked by productions of so many of the musicals that he and his partner, Betty Comden, wrote in their 60-year collaboration…Most of all, though, he would have been thrilled to see the ebullient revival, also on Broadway, of On the Town, their 1944 musical, about the amorous exploits of three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in the big city, which introduced the phrase “New York, New York, a helluva town” into the American lexicon and announced the arrival of a new generation in the American musical theater.”

New York Times: Carried Away by the Sights! Lights! Nights! — “This ‘On the Town’ makes you forget that such contrasting sensibilities could ever be considered irreconcilable, at least in the world of musical comedy. Beowulf Boritt’s simple sliding sets, Jess Goldstein’s costumes and Jason Lyons’s lighting evoke the city as a super candy store in which all manner of sweets are on offer. What’s surprising is how fluent the entire cast is in both the high and low languages they are required to speak.”

The New Yorker: Underground Beauties — “Every few months, a new glamour shot would appear on posters underground, along with a few lines describing the winner’s hobbies (‘modern dance, piano and ceramics’) and aspirations (“plugging for B.A. but would settle for M.R.S.”). Nearly two hundred women claimed the title. If Miss Subways is remembered today, it is primarily because of the 1944 musical ‘On the Town,’ whose heroine is Miss Turnstiles; she is pursued by a trio of sailors who have just learned that the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.”


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