Thomas Wootton High School senior Jared Albert keeps having the same conversation:
“I tell everybody: ‘It’s On the Town.’
“They say, ‘What?’
“I say, ‘It’s by Leonard Bernstein; I’m the guy who Frank Sinatra was.’”
For the record, Sinatra played Chip in the 1949 film version of the Leonard Bernstein musical. The film retained the story but only three of the songs from the stage version, which Wootton performs March 17-19 and 24-26.
Albert, senior Matt Mooney (Gene Kelley in the film) and senior Justin Sun play three sailors on shore leave in Manhattan for just one night. The story follows their successes and mishaps in finding their dream girls, or at least girls.
“Everybody can connect to it,” Albert said. “They get one day in New York. What are they going to do? All three guys are typical guys: ‘Oh lets find all the women we can.’”
“It’s a universal theme,” said senior Jordan Hitchens, who plays Madame Dilly, a perpetually drunk aging singer.
BUT IF THE themes, the storyline, and more than a few of the songs are familiar to audiences, the stage version of “On the Town” is still anything but common as a high school musical.
“The appeal is that nobody does it,” said Albert, who contrasted the choice to well-trodden high school selections like “Grease” and Bernstein’s own “West Side Story.” Those shows are classics, of course, he said, but it’s easy for audiences — and actors — to grow tired of them.
“I feel like we’re doing something new. None of us have seen the stage show,” Albert said. “Usually when you do the show … you’ve seen it before so subconsciously you’re mimicking it.”
Both actors said that “On the Town” is marked by catchy songs and almost constant dancing. There’s so much dancing, in fact, that director Adam Graham enlisted a non-singing dance ensemble to accompany the choral ensemble in big scenes.
At times, more than 50 performers are on stage at once.
“It is insane. There are four or five numbers where it’s everybody on stage doing complicated choreography,” Albert said. That could be a recipe for disaster, “but if you get it … it’s going to look great,” he said.
THE SHOW ALSO features Samantha Tempchin, Meghan Keane and Nellie Darling as the male leads’ love interests Claire, Hildy and Ivy. Director Adam Graham, a Woottton newcomer this year, directed the drama “Flowers for Algernon” in the fall, but “On the Town” is his first musical.
“The show’s actually really funny and Mr. Graham,” a former professional actor, “is doing a really good job of finding the little funny parts and really working them,” Hitchens said.
Graham and the actors have had fun with a show that was risqué in the 1940s and still falls at the mature end of the spectrum for high school performers.
Albert summarized it this way: “sex and hilarity.”