President Obama’s State of the Union address in January lasted an hour, but a few quick seconds of it could fundamentally transform the world and work of David Haussler ’75.
The musical comedy, which helped launch the careers of composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins, follows three young sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York City. The backdrop of World War II provides a sense of fast-paced urgency as the friends chase fun and romance in the big city.
The show is directed by Virginia Anderson, assistant professor of theater, who teamed up with other faculty to mount the ambitious production, including Mark Seto, assistant professor of music, who provides musical direction; Wendy Moy, assistant professor of music, who provides vocal direction; Sabrina Notarfrancisco, assistant professor of theater who provides costume design; and Lisa Race, assistant professor of dance, who prepared the choreography. Anderson cites the teamwork as one reason “On the Town” was selected as the College’s spring theatrical production, but also points to the College’s location as another motivation.
“It has been a dream come true to collaborate on a notoriously energetic and challenging Leonard Bernstein musical with Mark, Wendy and Lisa, not to mention the students and my colleagues in theater and theater services,” Anderson said. “But our production also represents the community engagement that defines Connecticut College: New London has played an important role in shaping military history through its connection to the Naval Submarine Base and the Coast Guard Academy, and of course there’s concern for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. As we look back at World War II through ‘On the Town,’ what is our responsibility as artists to engage with our current cultural moment? How can this show spark conversations that lead to deeper understanding of not only the past, but the present and future as well?”
The students performing on stage and in the orchestra have worked hard to perfect Bernstein's demanding score. That alone will appeal to fans of musical theater, but Anderson predicts that the tale will appeal to an even broader audience.
“I think that everyone will relate to the story we’re telling,” said Anderson. “‘On the Town’ is a celebration of connections between people, even when time is short — connections that define you and that you never forget.”
Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $8 for students and can be purchased at the Connecticut College box office. For more information, call 860-439-ARTS (2787).