Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s Mainstage Musical ‘On the Town’ Continues Through Nov. 18 at Getz Theatre Center

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s production of On the Town, the opening production of the department’s 2023-24 Mainstage Season, continues November 15 through 18 in the Courtyard Theatre of the Getz Theatre Center of Columbia College, located at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop. Student discounts are available. For tickets and more information – including a complete cast and production team list for this LIVE, IN-PERSON production – click here.

John Elson Williams

Tommy Rivera Vega

The classic 1944 musical, about three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York City, features an all-student cast and a production team composed of faculty, staff, and students, all under the direction of Theatre Department faculty member Amy Toruño. Music direction is by Theatre Department faculty member John Elson Williams, and choreography is by Theatre Department faculty member Tommy Rivera-Vega and Musical Theatre Performance BFA student Maya Lee.

Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green at work on “On the Town” in 1944.

On the Town, a 1944-45 Broadway hit, marked the Broadway debuts of composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The musical was based on the ballet Fancy Free, which Robbins had choreographed earlier the same year for Ballet Theatre to music by Bernstein. The comical script by Comden and Green (who also starred in the show) focuses on three sailors in the U.S. Navy during World War II; on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City before shipping overseas to fight and perhaps die in the war, the trio seek adventure and romance – hoping to cram as much living as possible into what little time they have.

Bernstein’s jazz-based score and Robbins’ use of dance to further the story were major innovations that helped shape the direction of American musical theatre for generations to come. As longtime Columbia College Theatre Department chair Sheldon Patinkin wrote in his textbook “No Legs, No Jokes, No Chance”: A History of the American Musical Theater (Northwestern University Press, 2008): “Although it wasn’t the first show to use swing, On the Town showed clearly that the newest pop music could be translated into musical theater terms if the setting was sufficiently contemporary and ‘hep’ – and if the show had a lot of dancing.” This production will also investigate diversity within the branches of the military, dispelling the notion of an all-white fighting force during the World Wars of the 20th century.