(Eric Grode’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/3 ;via Pam Green.)
By November 1944, the director, producer, playwright, sometime actor and full-time theater maestro George Abbott had already exerted his legendary control over Jimmy Durante, various vaudevillians looking to go legit and even, in “Jumbo,” a live elephant. But the roomful of tyros that had assembled in rehearsals for “On the Town” posed a new challenge for the 57-year-old “Mr. Abbott,” as everyone called him.
It wasn’t the stars. It was the creative team putting together the show, a boisterous musical about three sailors looking to pack as much romance and sightseeing as possible into one day of shore leave in New York City. First-time collaborations don’t get more auspicious than the one that included Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins, fresh off creating the hit ballet “Fancy Free,” along with the nightclub sketch comedians Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote themselves a pair of juicy parts in the show. The average age of these four: 27.