Janet B. Rosen, Marvin S. Rosen, Robert F. Smith
(in transit Website)
Book, Music, Lyrics by:
Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford
Russ Kaplan, Sara Wordsworth
Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall
Circle in the Square
50th Street, at 1633 Broadway
David Abeles, Moya Angela, Steven “Heaven” Cantor
Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, Erin Mackey, Gerianne Pérez
Margo Seibert, Chesney Snow, James Snyder, Mariand Torres
A Cappella Arrangements by Deke Sharon
Music Supervision: Rick Hip-Flores
Scenic Designer: Donyale Werle
Costume Design: Clint Ramos
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Designer: Ken Travis
Projection Design: Kate Hevner
Hair and Wig Design: Cookie Jordan
Press: Polk & Co.
Advertising and Marketing: AKA
General Management: Alchemy Production Group
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions, Inc.
Casting: Binder Casting/Jay Binder/Mark Brandon
Company Manager: Daniel Hoyos
Production Stage Manager: Kim Vernace
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 13, 2016
A surprising, ebullient, classy ensemble is singing its heart out at Circle in the Square, and I’m so glad I experienced this unique a cappella show. There’s no orchestra playing music, just natural choral voices, in soft, backdrop harmonies, in feverish or yearning solos, and in full ensemble arrangements. in transit (I assume a lower case title because the musical mostly takes place underground, in the subway station) lists book, music, and lyrics by the quartet of Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth. Their team effort is a smash success. This show, originally on an Off-Broadway, small stage, fills this appropriately downstairs theater (in the same complex as Wicked, the musical) with the scenic design of stairway, ticket booth, and metro ticket turnstile with which so many New Yorkers are all too familiar. Various relationships come, go, end, begin, expand, and change. It’s New York, sometimes so anonymous that people are literally leaning on one another, no eye contact, not a word. New York can also be sometimes too small, when people bump into friends or former partners, spouses, or lovers, sometimes greeting, sometimes escaping. And so it was in this rare, uplifting show.
In fact, one of the characters, Boxman (Chesney Snow in tonight’s performance, Steven “Heaven” Cantor in alternating performances) has a beat box and greets and counsels and consoles the characters in their daily plights, like an underground doorman to the subway riders. He makes all the station and track noise, plus other sound effects, with his microphone and electric boxes. He also raps along, now and then, like a one-man, urban Greek Chorus. Jane (Margo Siebert) is trying out for that elusive Broadway break, and her agent (Justin Guarini) has some good but fleeting news. Cell phones, texts, and such are common props here. Mr. Guarini also has a leading role as Trent, Steven’s (Telly Leung) longtime gay partner, and they’re about to be married. Trent’s religiously fervent mother in the south is played by Moya Angela, who also plays Jane’s temp office boss, while the actress waits for that big call. Ms. Angela, in addition, is Althea, the callous metro card lady, who refuses to give Nate (James Snyder) a pass on a turnstile fail. Nate lost a financial job when his boss saw a nasty “reply all” message Nate sent out, publicly demeaning the boss. Nate meets Jane in the subway station and they become an on-and off-again couple. Ali (Erin Mackey) is separated from Dave (David Abeles), but when she finally gathers strength to run the full marathon, guess whom she bumps into, with some extra stress on the side?
Additional ensemble characters, Chris (Nicholas Ward), Nina (Mariand Torres), and Kathy (Gerianne Pérez), fill out the lovely ensemble. Listening to Mr. Ward’s deep baritone vocals in “Wingman” was one of the highlights of the show. Of the featured romances, that of Steven and Trent was poignantly spotlighted, along with Trent’s familial angst about coming out with Steven (whom his family is told is a “roommate”) prior to the wedding. A temporary cell phone shutdown also shut down the running romance of Jane and Nate, for a time, which did seem ridiculous, considering all those romantic films with lovers dashing onto whistling trains or racing in open autos to find each other. This may be Kathleen Marshall’s pièce de résistance, and she has received rave reviews on these pages for years. The pitch perfect tones and timing of songs and dialogue, whether in Ali’s “Saturday Night Obsession”, Trent’s “Choosing Not to Know”, or Althea and the full ensemble’s rambunctious “Keep It Goin’”, are more than impressive. Donyale Werle’s astounding, full train station, with moving open cars for characters to jump on and off, is wonderful. Clint Ramos’ costumes include a big yellow and blue dress for Althea, the ticket lady, made out of super-sized, shiny metro cards. For the commanding Boxman, Mr. Ramos designed a beige jumpsuit, while Trent’s mother’s church suit was iconic. Actors might disappear momentarily and return dressed for another role or for an ensemble harmony. Donald Holder’s lighting and Ken Travis’ sound were spectacularly nuanced.
Kudos to the writers-composers, to Ms. Marshall, and to Deke Sharon and Rick Hip-Flores for arrangements and music supervision. And, kudos to all.