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'On the Town' captures 'young soaring spirit of the country,' bringing out character and nostalgia of the 1940s

Muhlenberg to celebrate Broadway's golden age with Bernstein, Comden and Green in splashy WWII musical, Oct. 26 - Nov. 4

Allentown, Pa. (Oct. 2, 2012) - When the classic 1944 musical 'On the Town' opens Oct. 26 on the Muhlenberg College stage, director Charles Richter wants the audience to feel as though they have returned to the golden age of the show's 1944 opening.

"The show is a time-honored classic that captures the young soaring spirit of the country during World War II," Richter says. "It brings out the character and nostalgia of the 1940s."

Richter will once again be working alongside musical director Ed Bara and choreographer Karen Dearborn on Leonard Bernstein's rich score, a zingy, fast-paced book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and choreography inspired by Jerome Robbins.

The show runs two weekends - just eight performances on Muhlenberg's Empie Stage. Tickets may be limited, especially for the Nov. 2-4 performances during the college's Family Weekend.

The curtain rises in the Brooklyn Navy Yard at 6 a.m. on a summer morning during World War II. Three sailors-Chip, Ozzie and Gabey-begin their 24-hour shore leave, eager to explore the big city. Gabey falls in love with the picture of "Miss Turnstiles, June 1944," who turns out to be Ivy Smith. With the help of anthropologist Claire DeLoone and amorous cabbie Hildy Esterhazy, the sailors race around New York attempting to find Ivy before their leave ends and they have to ship out.

'On the Town' began as a story line in choreographer Jerome Robbins' ballet "Fancy Free," for which Bernstein had provided the score. Hoping to further develop his idea, Robbins sought out collaboration with Comden and Green, and the three sailors out on the town, looking for excitement and romance, became the kernel of a full-length musical, a fusion of classical and modern dance combined with jazz and vernacular moves - a Broadway first.

"The show brings together a collaboration of ballet and jazz, which had never really been done before." Richter says. "The piece isn't just a dance show; dance drives it. That's why this show makes you feel so good."

The show features a cast of 40, including 16 seniors, many of whom have worked with Richter in the past.

"'On the Town' brings out the sentiments of love and the sting of saying goodbye," says senior James Patefield, who plays Ozzie. "With five of the six principals as seniors, the cast is very aware of the message of this show - the idea of hope, not cynically or sarcastically, but hope we can believe in, especially with so little time left with the ones you love and care most about."

"The show emphasizes that you should live in the moment. Be spontaneous. And most importantly, love the one you're with," said senior Jessie MacBeth, who plays Claire DeLoone opposite Patefield. "With such a collaborative cast and production team, this show really embodies the sense of unity and feel-good entertainment that Comden and Green were striving for."

Muhlenberg College's Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country, according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

"On the Town" runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 4 in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges. For group of 15 or more, tickets are $16.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/theatre.