insightful in-depth reviews

cogency
15, Dec 2016
Photo by Joan Marcus

In Transit: the sounds of New York City

by Steve Cohen
The Cultural Critic

In Transit. Book, music & lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Circle in the Square, New York, from December 11, 2016.

 

In Transit is marketed as the first a cappella musical in Broadway history, but it’s much more than that. With absolutely no instruments involved in a score by a team including the creators of Pitch Perfect and Frozen, In Transit explores the interconnectivity of New York’s residents who ride the subway. The significance of the a cappella motif (besides being a great form of music) is that the style personifies multiple voices being woven together to create a collective sound. The characters in the show are connected, their voices in song are connected — just as when they have to catch a train from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, they have to make connections.

We meet a struggling actress in a temp job, a down-on-his-luck Wall Street executive, a closeted gay man preparing for his wedding, and more. These stories flesh out the themes of mindfulness, ambition and time. What we learn as the story progresses is how connected the different plots are in character and in theme. These characters are at crossroads and they learn how to be okay with where they are, even if they’re not where they want to be.

When you spend so much time “in between stations” you have to appreciate the journey of “getting there”, as the 11-o-clock number is entitled.

Rarely has Broadway seen such an effective love letter to New York, not since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first hit, In The Heights. Very few shows have so realistically portrayed what life is like on the streets of Manhattan and do so in an entertaining fashion. The characters on display go through things that everyday New Yorkers deal with, and these actors bring authenticity to the roles.

All of the 11-member cast are superb in their roles. Margo Seibert and James Snyder are excellent leads who also rise to the challenge of being part of the harmony-singing ensemble. At one point, it’s Snyder doing the beat-boxing. Nicholas Ward and Moya Angela are spectacular in their solo moments and also back up others. Ward, with his amazingly deep bass voice, almost never stops singing for 105 minutes. Justin Guarini, of American Idol fame, isn’t just a fine singer but his acting portrayal of an anxiety-ridden gay man is touching.

In Transit puts it all together to create one of the most creative and enjoyable musicals on Broadway. Below, Seibert and Snyder:

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