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Of the production -- well: Jude Kelly, may the gods bless her soul, has got it about right. She has seen enough of the skull beneath the skin without exposing the audience to an autopsy. Those who want to see only the fun are not hampered by the shadows -- I think the balance is absolutely right. Certain moments -- the skeleton of a New York cab, the varied uses of girders and tenement stairways (very West Side Story) are pure genius. It's a production that is smooth, slick, evolving but never patronising. Terrific!

Hildy Esterhazy (Caroline Oconnor) and Chip (Adam Garcia). Photo © 2005 Johan Persson
Hildy Esterhazy (Caroline Oconnor) and Chip (Adam Garcia). Photo © 2005 Johan Persson

The question of what conductor, Simon Lee, got from the orchestra is moot. There's no doubt that they play this music especially well and it would be absurd to expect much more identification from them. There was the necessary fizz from the brass, bleak loneliness from a clarinet, gorgeous string underpinning in that Lenny requiem to life : Some Other Time. Percussion -- well, wow! But somehow it didn't quite feel authentic enough -- too closely woven a safety-net, maybe. Too polite, perhaps, for people who 'ride in a hole in the ground!'

Ozzie (Timothy Howar), Gabey (Aaron Lazar) and Chip (Adam Garcia). Photo © 2005 Johan Persson
Ozzie (Timothy Howar), Gabey (Aaron Lazar) and Chip (Adam Garcia). Photo © 2005 Johan Persson

The six o'clock siren sounds for us all someway or other. This is fantastic stuff -- the Stephen Mear choreographed dancing alone is worth the admission price. The sailors teach us a little about love, fun, the expedient and the inescapable ephemera of passion. I salute them and sail with them.

Copyright © 16 March 2005 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK

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David Wilkins' review is based on the 10 March 2005 performance of On The Town. There are further performances at English National Opera on 18, 24, 26 March, 7, 8, 13, 14, 19 April and 11, 19, 21 and 24 May 2005.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN 1918-1990

DANCE, BERNSTEIN!

ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA

LEONARD BERNSTEIN

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