OnTown1At first, I thought this goofy musical would irritate me to no end: indeed, the opening and closing numbers by a beefy workman on the docks of New York are grating beyond belief. But gee, I’ll be damned if the darned thing didn’t (moderately) win me over once Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra pop on the scene and begin frolicking all over Manhattan. Sure, the banter is horribly dated—On the Town is chock-full of “gosh, you really mean it?” and “gee whiz!”-style exchanges—and the musical numbers, while decent, can’t touch those in Donen & Kelly’s far superior Singin’ in the Rain. That movie had a vibrancy that On the Town doesn’t sniff: 60 years later, it’s clearly viewed best as a warm-up exercise . But its aww-shucks charm becomes hard to resist as the three sailors, led by Sinatra’s Chip and Kelly’s Gabey, dart around the city I adore, looking for culture (sort of; does taking a museum’s dinosaur skeleton down count?), sights, and, of course, 24-hour love. Chip’s love/hate relationship with the horny cab driver Brunhilde (Betty Garrett) is amusing, but it’s Gabey’s obsessive pursuit of Ms. Turnstiles Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen)—a small-town girl like himself posing as a glamorous city diva—that gives On the Town its heartbeat. And of course, it’s super cool as a lifelong New Yorker seeing landmarks like Columbus Circle and Grand Central Station circa 1949. Those who are turned off by musicals are advised to steer clear of On the Town, as it embraces its genre to the fullest, but fans can do much worse than see Sinatra and Kelly sing, prance and dance.

56/100