Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Transit

I walked home with a happy heart after seeing Primary Stages’s new a cappella musical In Transit, which opened last night in its world premiere at 59E59 Theaters. This upbeat portrayal of life in New York is loads of fun, plus it packs an important message that we all need reminding of from time to time.

The show features seven actors in a variety of roles, riding the subway and singing about the joys and frustrations of life in the Big Apple. Director Joe Calarco keeps things hopping and music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell has done a superb job of harmonizing the talented cast -- Steve French as Bass, Celisse Henderson as Alto/Regina, Hannah Laird as Soprano/Ali, Chesney Snow as Boxman, Graham Stevens as Baritone/Nate, Denise Summerford as Mezzo/Jane and Tommar Wilson as Tenor/Trent.

The songs (book, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth) tell familiar stories: in “No Dental” an aspiring actress sings about the frustrations of her day job as she auditions repeatedly, continuing to hope for her moment in the spotlight; “Four Days Home” is about a gay man’s difficulty visiting his small hometown in Texas where he has to stay closeted, and his longing to get back to New York.

The stories are framed by the opening number, “Not There Yet,” about all the various agonies straphangers endure trying to get to their destinations, and the closing number, “Getting There,” which offers the message that getting somewhere is just as important as being there. The Boxman, who raps in the subway station and acts as a connector for the other characters, makes the musical point that since most workers spend about two hours a day commuting, it’s better to be in the moment of that time instead of looking at a watch or cursing the train delays. He helps the others appreciate the journeys of their lives and all are transformed in the Finale.

Anna Louizos’s set and Jeff Croiter’s lights do a good job of evoking the look and feel of the subway stations and trains.

Thanks to all involved for taking us on a 90-minute pleasure ride. As my friend Trixy said: “I really enjoyed the show.  It was fresh and fun and very NYC.  Nice to see something that is not sitcom.”

In Transit continues at 59E59 Theaters through Oct. 30. Tickets are available by calling (212) 279-4200 or at the box office, 59 E. 59th St. For more information, visit

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