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‘On the Town’ Is One Fun Night in Fullerton

TIMES THEATER WRITER

“On the Town” embodies youthful high spirits in dangerous, chancytimes better than just about any other musical, which makes its mysteriously rare revivals worth cherishing. In an ideal musical theater world, the latest crop of fledgling adults would demand to see “On the Town,” every four or five years, and the rest of us could join in the fun, too.

In 1997 and 1998, George C. Wolfe revived the show, first in Central Park and then on Broadway, with a multiethnic cast and attempts to modernize the choreography. It sounded like a great idea, but it didn’t take, so what would have been a subsequent national tour never materialized.

However, local theatergoers still have a brief opportunity to catch up with “On the Town,” thanks to Fullerton Civic Light Opera, at Plummer Auditorium. No, this isn’t a very multiethnic version, nor an aesthetically groundbreaking one, nor a definitive one. But the show’s irresistible merriment and its tinge of melancholy come across well.

Although it’s known as the musical about three sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York during World War II, the women with whom the sailors mingle are actually more vivid characters.

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Director and choreographer Rob Barron made the most out of these three high-octane dames. Katie Marilley has the long limbs and lustrous features that make Miss Turnstiles, Ivy Smith, come alive in dance. Natalie Nucci has brass to spare as Hildy, the man-hungry cabby. Cynthia Ferrer’s delicious giddiness as the sometime anthropologist Claire De Loon is backed by a lovely singing voice that makes the bittersweet “Some Other Time” memorable.

The guys are good, too. Roger Castellano has a restless, rangy look and matches Ferrer well in the mock-operatic “Carried Away” duet. Seth Hampton’s Gabey has the major ballads and does well enough by them.

Jim Raposa’s Chip isn’t quite toe-to-toe with Nucci’s Hildy, but she’s supposed to be an overwhelming force in their encounters, so their pairing works out. Raposa and Hampton resemble each other in body type a little too closely to make either or both of them stand out (and, of course, they wear identical sailor suits).

Patrick Hanrahan has Claire’s bland fiance down pat, and Shelly Holczer and Shirley Romano are amusing in their character roles.

The opening scene is supposed to suggest calm but also an impending storm--here it’s a little too becalmed. Ed Gallagher’s sets serve their purpose but don’t grab the senses like they might in a more fully professional production. Lee Kreter’s musical direction is solid, though the Leonard Bernstein score deserves a few more players.

* “On the Town,” Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. Tonight, Saturday, Oct. 26-28, 8 p.m.; Sunday and Oct. 28-29, 2 p.m.; this Sunday only, 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 29. $15-$36. (714) 879-1732, (714) 526-3832). Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Seth Hampton: Gabey

Jim Raposa: Chip

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Roger Castellano: Ozzie

Katie Marilley: Ivy Smith

Natalie Nucci: Hildy

Cynthia Ferrer: Claire De Loon

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Eve Cohen: Lucy Schmeeler

Patrick Hanrahan: Judge

Pitkin W. Bridgework

Shirley Romano: Flossie

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Shelly Holczer: Madame Maude P. Dilly

Thomas Fuentes: Workman

Tree Henson: Flossie’s Friend

Book and lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Music by Leonard Bernstein. Directed and choreographed by Rob Barron. Set by Ed Gallagher. Musical director Lee Kreter. Costumes by Sharell Martin. Lighting by Donna Ruzika. Sound by A.J. Gonzalez. Production stage manager Donna R. Parsons.

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