Allied forces declared victory over Japan. World War II was over, and in New York City’s Times Square, a celebrating sailor grabbed a nearby nurse and locked her in a passionate kiss. Someone snapped their picture.
The black and white image by Alfred Eisenstaedt appeared in Life Magazine and has come to symbolize all the euphoria and abandon of the war’s end. It’s also the image that Mark Hardy, director of “On the Town,” said inspired his latest production.
“There’s so much passion and joy there,” Hardy said of the picture, “that it’s been our guiding light for the whole show.”
“On the Town” runs Sep. 28 to Oct. 8 in the Corbett Theatre and opens the fall season for the Department of Theatre and Dance. It follows three fun-seeking World War II sailors during a 24-hour shore leave in New York City. Determined to pack a boatload of sights, sounds and experiences into one day, Gabey (Jeremy Sartin), Chip (Chad Sapp) and Ozzie (Cary Davenport) storm the city in search of fun and romance.
The Leonard Bernstein musical was an immediate hit when it debuted in 1944. Based on “Fancy Free,” a ballet by Jerome Robbins, Hardy said the musical was meant as an escape from the stresses of World War II.
Instead of war and hardship, Hardy said, “It’s about young, sexy people looking for romance.”
Another theme is a fascination with the city’s magnetism.
“It’s all about loving New York,” Sartin said. Sartin’s character Gabey is determined to score a date with Miss Turnstiles (Alyssa Jane Foley), a pin-up girl he falls in love with in a subway. “It’s about how wonderful finding love in New York is,” Sartin said.
Like their buddy Gabey, Chip and Ozzie aren’t exempt from New York’s romantic appeal. On his mission to see every landmark in the Big Apple, Chip finds cab driver Hildy Esterhazy (Katlyn Mukuda), while Ozzie meets Claire De Loone (April Leonhard), an anthropologist who admires his striking resemblance to prehistoric man.
Although “On the Town” is over sixty years old, Foley, who plays the elusive Miss Turnstiles, finds the show relevant today.
“It’s not just a glitzy, golden age musical,” she said. “There’s a lot of depth to it. It’s about coming together and celebrating how wonderful the world can be without war in it.”
Tickets for the show run $10 for adults, $9 for faculty/staff, $8 for senior citizens 60 and older and $6 for students.
Buy tickets at the Fine Arts Box Office, or call 572-5464.