The Big Apple's Big Musical
Sailors Gabey, Chip and Ozzie (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin) dock in New York and plan to make the most of their 24 hour shore leave with a day packed full of sight seeing around the Big Apple. But before the day gets started Gabey finds himself falling for Ivy Smith "Miss Turnstiles of the Month" (Vera-Ellen) thinking she is some sophisticated model and spends the whole day trying to track her down to score a date. Chip finds himself coming to the attention of man eating cab driver Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett) who almost kidnaps him. And Ozzie finds himself in the company of Claire (Ann Miller), an anthropologist who thinks he is the perfect example of prehistoric man.
The voice of Frank Sinatra, the twinkle toes of Gene Kelly and the comedy of Jules Munshin along with the equally talented Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller are the reasons why "On the Town" is not only a fun but also a memorable musical. With great song and dance numbers all littered with great comedy it is a musical which delivers time and again. Yes you could say that the storyline to "On the Town" is not the greatest but that doesn't matter because the various song and dance scenes are terrific, even those which creep towards being a bit self indulgent. As such "On the Town" is a musical which is still entertaining despite being over 60 years old.
Now most musicals have a wafer thin storyline and in a way the storyline to "On the Town" is rather thin with the story being about 3 sailors on shore leave in New York finding themselves in the company of three women. But thankfully there is a little more to it than that with each sailor and woman having a subplot from Chip finding himself the objection of affection of man eating cabbie Brunhilde, and Ozzie finding himself the ideal specimen for anthropologist Claire. And basically stringing it all together is Gabey who falls for "Miss Turnstiles of the Month" and spends most of his time trying to find her thinking she is one thing, this sophisticated famous woman when really she is just a cooch dancer. It's not a complex storyline and frankly it's pretty obvious but compared to so many other musicals at least the storyline is the vehicle for the song and dance scenes rather than the other way around.
But being a musical "On the Town" is really all about those song and dance scenes and in Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin the movie has a talented trio to make every single one work. Whilst all three are capable of holding down a song listening to Frank Sinatra sing is just brilliant. And whilst all 3 are capable of dancing watching the effortless grace of Gene Kelly is captivating. Plus none of them are a slouch at being funny but the slapstick of Munshin makes every musical number a funny affair. But this trio are not alone as Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller are all equally talented and skilled matching Sinatra, Kelly and Munshin when it comes to the singing, dancing and the comedy.
It also helps that whilst there are a couple of corny songs thrown in most of the musical numbers which fill "On the Town" are memorable. The first time we watch and hear Sinatra, Kelly and Munshin belt out "New York, New York" you know you are going to be in for a treat of great songs and great dancing. And it goes on because Sinatra and Garrett deliver "Come Up to My Place" with so much energy and comedy that you can't but help smile and the same can be said of the amusing "Prehistoric Man". Because each of the musical numbers not only have memorable lyrics but are delivered with so much energy that "On the Town" is one of those musicals which is infectious at making you feel happy.
What this all boils down to is that "On the Town", whilst being a musical from a bygone era is still as entertaining today as it has ever been. It may not have a complex storyline but it is more than many musicals, providing the vehicle for the great song and dance scenes. Plus with an abundance of talent in Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin plus the equally talented Vera Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller there is barely a dull moment in its entire length.