Three Dance Episodes from On the Town(1945)
Writes Bernstein, “It seems only natural that dance should play a leading role in the show On the Town, since the idea of writing it arose from the success of the ballet Fancy Free….The story of On the Town is concerned with three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York, and their adventures with the monstrous city which its inhabitants take so for granted.” The first episode is Dance of the Great Lover, in which the romantic sailor Gabey falls asleep on the subway and dreams of sweeping Miss Turnstiles off her feet; the effervescent music underlines Gabey’s naiveté as well as his determination. In the second episode, Pas de Deux, Gabey watches a scene, “both tender and sinister, in which a sensitive high-school girl in Central Park is lured and then cast off by a worldly sailor.” This is set to Lonely Town – one of Bernstein’s greatest tunes, worthy of his friend and mentor Aaron Copland in its air of reflective melancholy. The finale, Times Square Ballet is described by Bernstein as “a more panoramic sequence in which all the sailors congregate in Times Square for their night of fun.” Part of the action takes place in the Roseland Dance Palace, with music to match. The famous “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town” theme makes a cameo appearance.