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David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

Bringing together explosive song and dance routines, Bernstein’s On the Town was to set the scene for a new era of musicals in post-war America. It did not enjoy long-term stage success as the end of hostilities took away the story-line of two sailors on leave in New York looking for girls to entertain them. That could have been the end of its life had it not proved an ideal vehicle for a Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra partnership in a 1949 filmed a heavily adapted version. Here we have the historical document of excerpts from the show as originally seen. Even then Decca thought it wise to bring in the star quality of Mary Martin to add to its commercial desirability. The reissue goes on to add an On the Town Medley, and the composer conducting four ballet sections with the ‘On the Town’ Orchestra. Excellent notes relate how those involved in the music, lyrics and staging got together many years before as the group ‘The Revuers’, the disc containing two of their sketches with Bernstein at the piano. The disc is completed with three dances from the ballet Fancy Free with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra. Most of the tracks—apart from The Revuers which was made in 1940—date from 1945 and 46, the sound rather shrill but typical of American recordings of the time. Those deeply into musicals will treasure this reissue.

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