The trite scenario has the lives of several New York City subway commuters intersecting. It’s a by-the-numbers narrative as we follow the travails of a struggling actress on the verge of her big break while working as an office temp, a laid-off Wall Streeter, a gay male couple whose impending marriage is complicated by one’s reluctance to come out to his Christian evangelical mother, and a jilted young woman.
The score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth is a pleasant collection of serviceable songs. Their book, based on their original concept, is a workmanlike blueprint of peppy clichés. It does have topical references such as the Pizza Rat. The show lasts one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission and somewhat lags due to the familiar plot threads.
Deke Sharon’s a cappella arrangements energetically make up for the absence of music and are vibrantly performed.
The winning cast includes Margo Seibert, Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, Erin Mackey, James Snyder, Moya Angela, David Abeles, Gerianne Pérez, Mariand Torres, and Nicholas Ward. All of their characterizations are appealing and they uniformly demonstrate exceptional singing, dancing and acting skills.
At the performance under review Chesney Snow played the rotating role of Boxman (alternating with Steven “HeaveN” Cantor), a street singer who hangs out on the subway. Mr. Snow dynamically performed as this narrator figure that interacts with the various characters.
Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s vigorous efforts add liveliness to the production and her dance sequences have flair, particularly the assembly of people during their morning commutes. The three-sided playing area of the theater is well utilized with a number of cool images. A conveyor belt in the center moves the performers and subways car around.
Donyale Werle’s ingenious scenic design artfully suggests the look of a real New York City subway station with its accurate details. Ms. Werle’s creations also simply suggest other settings. A coffee cart is realistically replicated.
A ball gown made of New York subway cards is the witty highlight of Clint Ramos’ contemporary costume design.
Donald Holder’s lighting design crisply accentuates the action.
The brash sounds of the subway in tandem with the expertly modulated musical numbers are elements of Ken Travis’s excellent sound design.
Among the many great songs that have captured the New York City experience have been Stephen Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People,” John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “New York, New York” and the contemporary hip-hop “Empire State of Mind,” featuring vocals by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. In Transit attempts to dramatize that sense of awe and wonderment into a full-length musical with bland results.
In Transit (open run)
Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 West 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.intransitbroadway.com
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission