Review: San Francisco Symphony’s semi-staged “On the Town”

Posted on: June 1, 2016

“For his Memorial Day weekend program with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducted a semi-staged performance” of Leonard Bernstein’s musical On the Town that “had the character of a revelation,” writes Mark Swed in Tuesday’s (5/31) Los Angeles Times. “Broadway Bernstein is unique. ‘On the Town’ was his first show. A year earlier, he made front-page news with his Carnegie Hall debut conducting the New York Philharmonic. In short succession before the ‘On the Town’ opening, he premiered his first symphony (‘Jeremiah’), which won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award for the best American work of 1944, and he created his first ballet, ‘Fancy Free.’ … Taken together, ‘On the Town’ is the extraordinary preview of the greatest career in American music…. [Tilson Thomas’s] inspiration was in inviting the leads from the excellent cast of singers and dancers in the 2014 revival that ran on Broadway. Joshua Bergasse’s choreography was remounted on a platform behind the orchestra and also on a space carved out in front. The performers … proved spectacular…. James Darrah staged with everything with a restrained flair… Narrators Amanda Green and David Garrison added dramatic context and humor. Amplification was bold but without distortion. It all worked.”

Posted June 1, 2016

Pictured: Jay Armstrong Johnson, Clyde Alves, and Tony Yazbeck in the San Francisco Symphony’s “On the Town” led by Michael Tilson Thomas. Photo by Stefan Cohen