Wright State Theatre to present dance musical comedy ‘On the Town’ in Festival Playhouse

Featuring a 19-piece onstage orchestra, Wright State Theatre will close its 2022–23 season with the dance musical comedy “On the Town” from March 17 to April 8 in the Festival Playhouse.

Featuring its largest musical ensemble and an onstage orchestra, Wright State University Theatre will present the landmark musical comedy “On the Town” from March 17 to April 8 in the Festival Playhouse in the Creative Arts Center.

Performances take place March 17, 18, 24, 25 and April 7 and 8 at 8 p.m.; March 19, 25, 26 and April 8 at 2 p.m.; and April 6 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for senior citizens and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Creative Arts Center box office weekdays between noon and 4 p.m.

“On the Town” tells the story of three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York City during World War II. The musical by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green is bursting with youthful energy, humor, romance and exquisite music.

Wright State Theatre’s production features a 19-piece onstage orchestra that includes students and faculty from the School of Fine and Performing Arts and local professional musicians.

The orchestra is led by F. Wade Russo, the theatre program’s music director, who said the collaboration between the music and theatre programs represents Wright State’s commitment to the artistic and professional development of its students.

“It gives student musicians the opportunity to work and perform alongside their professors as well as with local professionals to hone their musical skills outside of the concert experience,” he said.

Russo said the musical features a remarkable score that reflects the “complicated urgency of life in wartime America.”

“On the Town” also includes new choreography by guest artist Josh Walden, a long-time Broadway performer who also directs and choreographs across the United States.

Walden has brought a special level of artistry to this production, said “On the Town” director Joe Deer, artistic director and distinguished professor of musical theatre.

Walden said the dances in the production are intrinsically linked to the storylines of three sailors on leave, with every step “essential and deeply connected to want and need.”

“The students at Wright State University have all risen to this choreographic challenge with great skill and a full-body commitment,” Walden said.

When it premiered in 1944, “On the Town” raised the bar for Broadway musicals, while maintaining an incredible sense of joy, romance and silliness, Deer said.

“This new production captures all the energy of that moment and brings it vividly to life in ways that burst off the stage,” Deer said. “Most of the characters are exactly the age of our students, who have found a joyful connection with the story that’s thrilling to see in rehearsal.”

“On the Town” features scenic design by Pam Lavarnway, professor emeritus of theatre design and technology; lighting design by Matthew Benjamin, professor of theatre; costume design by Zoe Still, instructor of design, and Carrie Wieland, a theatre design and technology major; properties by John Lavarnway, properties master; sound by James Dunlap, staff audio coordinator; and technical direction by Kevin Nedberg, staff technical director. The production is stage managed by guest artist Nia Burns, with assistance from acting majors Sarah Rowell and Juliette Trumbull.

On the stage, “On the Town” features Ben Ohnemus as Chip Offenbloch, John Cuozzo as Ozzie, Tanner Gleeson as Gabey, Trinity Wolff as Hildy Esterhazy, Amy VanDyke as Ivy Smith, Melissa Mataresse as Claire de Loone, Sam Evans as Mdme. Dilly, Aliya Pimental as Lucy Schmeeler and Kevin Lausche as Pitkin W. Bridgework.

The male ensemble features Orion Carter ( Swing), Aidan Edwards, Eamon Mitchell Andres Martinez, Anderson Rothwell, Tommy Thams, Alex Tischer, Richard Yannotti and Aidan Fracker.

The female ensemble features Lindsay Bates, Katie Carter, Taylor Greny, Kendra Lodewyk, Emma Metzger, Claire Northcut, Paige Purcell, Hannah Rollins, Sara Tuohy and Shannon Mehrtens (swing).

Major support for this production comes from The Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State University and several private donors.

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