“On the Town” is a film adaptation of the classic Bernstein musical. This adaptation was subsequently boycotted by Bernstein as the majority of his operatic songs were replaced with Hollywood rewrites. While this rating is based solely on the quality of the film, I do think that it was a pretty sleazy move by MGM to keep the story but rewrite the music. One of the only songs that were preserved from the stage show is “New York, New York” (not the Sinatra version that you are thinking of). Coincidentally, it is the best song in the film and perhaps some of Bernstein’s other pieces would have also been well-received if left in the score. As a film viewed without relationship to its stage version, “On the Town” is very entertaining. When you put together the likes of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, and Vera-Ellen, a high-energy song-and-dance extravaganza is inevitable. Much of the story is farfetched but the dance numbers keep us interested while the vocalists steal our hearts. The cute insult-turned-compliment one-liners of “You’re Awful” are a highlight, as are the tap numbers and the superb “Comedy in Three Acts” ballet sequence that retells the story through dance. “On the Town” falls short of the classic film musicals (“Singing in the Rain,” “Oklahoma,” “Little Shop”), but it is nice to take a break from the same old shows and remember what it is like to watch a show without knowing all of the lyrics.
[Pictured: You really can't go wrong with this crew]