(March 16, 2016) Michael Tilson Thomas, along with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), the SF Symphony Chorus, and an all-star Broadway cast and creative team present a new semi-staged concert production of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town at Davies Symphony Hall, May 25-29, 2016. The production features veterans of stage and screen Tyne Daly and David Garrison as narrators, plus stars of the 2014 Broadway revival Clyde Alves as Ozzie, Jay Armstrong Johnson as Chip, Tony Yazbeck as Gabey, Megan Fairchild as Ivy, and Alysha Umphress as Hildy. They are joined by special guests Isabel Leonard as Claire, Shuler Hensley as Judge Pitkin, and Sheri Greenawald as Madame Dilly. Building on his 1992 production that was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, Michael Tilson Thomas has conceived this new staging of the work utilizing theatrical elements such as lighting, video projections, costumes, and choreography.
Tilson Thomas first met Leonard Bernstein several years after Bernstein’s West Side Story premiere in 1957 and has championed the iconic composer/conductor’s music throughout his career. MTT and the SFS were the first to perform and record the entire musical score of Bernstein’s West Side Story in a concert setting, June-July of 2013. The recording, released on SFS Media, won a 2014 International Classical Music Award (ICMA) for opera, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Musical Theater. It is available for purchase through the Symphony Store.
Bernstein’s On the Town was based on a ballet by Jerome Robbins called “Fancy Free”. It premiered as a Broadway musical in 1944, with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and was made into a film in 1949. It enjoyed several revivals on Broadway. The story surrounds three sailors who each meet a woman on their 24 hour shore leave in New York. It contains such popular songs as “New York, New York”, “Lonely Town”, and “Some Other Time”. MTT and the SFS performed On the Town in 1996 during his inaugural year as Music Director of the SFS, with guest Tyne Daly in role of Narrator/voice of Hildy. The SFS reprised the work in 2008.
About the Artists
Clyde Alves is a Canadian dancer, actor and singer. He has appeared in Broadway productions of The Music Man,Wicked, Hairspray, Oklahoma!,A Chorus Line, and On the Town. Alves was honored with the Fred Astaire Award for Best Male Dancer for his role as Tommy Djilas in the Susan Stroman revival of The Music Man.
Tyne Daly is an award-winning actress of stage and screen, known for a wide array of projects that include Cagney & Lacey, Judging Amy and Gypsy. She has won six Emmy Awards for her television work and a Tony Award for the 1989 revival of Gypsy and is a 2011 American Theatre Hall of Fame inductee. In 2002, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television. Daly performed the role of Narrator/voice of Hildy in Michael Tilson Thomas’s first production of On the Town with the SFS in 1996.
Megan Fairchild is a principal dancer for the world-renowned New York City Ballet. The 2014 Broadway revival of On the Town was her first foray into the world of Broadway musicals. Fairchild was honored with a Theatre World Award and nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for her portrayal of Ivy Smith.
David Garrison, best known as Steve Rhoades on television’s Married with Children, began his career as a member of the resident company at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. His Broadway credits include Titanic, Wicked, Bells Are Ringing, Strike Up the Band (City Center Encores!), Torch Song Trilogy, The Pirates of Penzance, A History of the American Film, and A Day in Hollywood/A Night in The Ukraine, for which he received a Tony Award nomination and a Drama-Logue Award. Garrison’s other awards include a Helen Hayes Award for his work as Charlie in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along at Arena Stage and a Carbonell Award for his role as the Wizard of Oz on the first national tour of Wicked.
San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald has had a distinguished international operatic singing career as a soprano, noted in particular for her range of roles. She has sung featured roles with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Venice’s La Fenice, the Munich State Opera, and Paris’s Chatelet Theater, among many others. Greenawald’s singing career is rivaled only by her success in training and mentoring talented young singers with the Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows.
Shuler Hensley’s stage career began in the early 1990s with roles in On the Town, The Most Happy Fella, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in addition to his operatic roles. In 2011, Shuler portrayed American Yiddish theatre great Boris Thomashefsky in The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater, hosted by the Thomashefsky’s grandson, Michael Tilson Thomas. The show aired on the PBS series Great Performances in 2012. Hensley has appeared in several movies, including Van Helsing, Legend of Zorro, and Opa!. He has earned many honors, including the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics’ Circle awards.
Jay Armstrong Johnson’s love of acting, singing, and dancing led him to New York City, where he has scored Broadway roles in Hands on a Hardbody and On the Town, as well as the role of Anthony in New York Philharmonic’s staged concert of Sweeney Todd. Johnson has also appeared on television, in “Law & Order: SVU”, “Seeking: The Web Series”, “Sex and the City 2”, and “Quantico.”
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is in demand in opera houses, on the concert stage, and as a recitalist. She is on the Board of Trustees at Carnegie Hall. Leonard is a recent Grammy Award winner for Thomas Ades’ The Tempest (Best Opera Recording), which she performed with the SFS in 2013, and she sang in Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole with the SFS in 2015. Leonard is the recipient of the 2013 Richard Tucker Award.
Alysha Umphress is a Broadway performer and vocalist. In addition to her starring role as Hildy in On the Town, she has had roles in productions of Green Day’s rock opera, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Bring It On: The Musical. In 2015, Umphress released her debut solo album, I’ve Been Played: Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz.
Tony Yazbeck resides in New York City, where he is a passionate actor, director, writer, and choreographer. He is also a devoted teacher, most frequently at the National YoungArts Foundation, as a master teacher, panelist and assistant director to the legendary Bill T. Jones. Yazbeck was recently nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Gabey in the 2014 Broadway revival of On the Town.
The San Francisco Symphony Chorus is one of America’s most distinguished choruses. The 156-member chorus is known for its precision, power and versatility. Recordings featuring the SFS Chorus have won a total of eight Grammy awards, including three for Best Choral Performance. The SFS Chorus was featured on the SFS Media’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with MTT and the SFS, which won three 2010 Grammys, including the award for Best Choral Performance. Led by Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus performs more than twenty concerts each season and is comprised of 32 professional and 124 volunteer members.
San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony Chorus,Ragnar Bohlin director
Tyne Daly narrator
David Garrison narrator
Clyde Alves (Ozzie)
Jay Armstrong Johnson (Chip)
Tony Yazbeck (Gabey)
Megan Fairchild (Ivy)
Alysha Umphress (Hildy)
Isabel Leonard (Claire)
Shuler Hensley (Pitkin)
Sheri Greenawald (Madame Dilly)
James Darrah stage director
MacMoc Design scenic design
Pablo Santiago lightning design
Adam Larsen projection design
Peabody Southwell costume design
Bernstein On the Town [Semi-staged]
Audio Program Notes: Listen to a free podcast about Bernstein’s On the Town, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone. All podcasts are archived, and can be downloaded or streamed from sfsymphony.org/podcasts and from the iTunes store.
Pre-Concert Talk: James Keller will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.
Pre-Order Food and Drinks: Concertgoers may pre-order drinks and snacks here by 11am the day of a performance to arrange to have them ready at Davies Symphony Hall either before the concert or at intermission.
Tickets are available at sfsymphony.org, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.
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