By Andrew Andrews
The story of “trying to make it in New York” has been done to death, yet it’s one immediately relatable to nearly anyone who’s moved to the big city from... well, just about anywhere, really. And for those of us who are still trying, the hours spent riding (and awaiting, and cursing) the subway are full of common experiences that are equally relatable. It should come as no surprise that combining all of these elements into Broadway’s first a cappella musical would be a recipe for success, yet it is surprising just how wonderfully In Transit manages to capture and deliver the spirit of our city’s underbelly, with all its clichés, memes and stereotypes.
Enter Boxman (Chesney Snow), a beatboxer who seems to live on the subway platform, engaging and entertaining commuters with music, sound effects, a curious mind and a listening ear. Present and vocalizing in every number, in nearly every scene, we’re amazed that anyone can keep the rhythm flowing for 90+ minutes and never miss a beat. By the time the entire cast takes the stage for the opening number (Deep Beneath the City/Not There Yet), Boxman already has us keenly tuned in for the stories that are about to unfold. Jane (Margo Seibert) epitomizes every aspiring actor willing to “do what I don’t really do so I can Do What I Do.” Trent (Justin Guarini) and Steven (Telly Leung) survive a four-day visit to homophobic Texas but are unable to reveal their imminent marriage (or even their relationship) to Trent’s mother. Fitness-obsessed Ali (Erin Mackey) still can’t get over being dumped by Dave (David Abeles) nearly a year ago, after moving from Seattle on a whim for their relationship. She’s alone in the city except for her rarely-seen brother Nate (James Snyder), who’s in the middle of a career crisis due to the careless misuse of Reply All. There’s not a single role here that isn’t played and sung perfectly.
Especially for transplants, it can be hard to remember that, although we may be the stars of our own stories, we play only supporting roles in the lives of eight million others. And just as we need our own supporters to keep our train of progress on track, the leads in a great musical need strong supporting actors to complete the cast. Moya Angela belts out the parts of Trent’s mother, Jane’s boss and—best of all—Althea, the MTA subway station manager. As Nate’s Wingman, Chris, Nicholas Ward delivers notes deeper than the A Train under Washington Heights! And let’s not forget the harmonies of Mariand Torres (Nina) and Gerianne Pérez (Kathy), masterfully rounding out virtually every song.
As with most Broadway shows, there are so many talented people behind the scenes that it’s impossible to list them all in a short review like this. The music is delightful through and through, the book is perfectly-littered with New York vocabulary and the costumes (we loved the MetroCard dress!) and dancing highlight the story well. But speaking of scenery, specifically, we commend Donyale Werle for a set that not only has Subway written all over it (literally and figuratively), but uses the track space more effectively than we could ever imagine.
Perhaps it’s fitting that three of the (only) four off-Broadway shows with a cappella orchestration have been set in New York City, and we hope that In Transit will stand clear of the closing doors for a long and successful run, laying tracks for more sans-instrumental musicals to come to Broadway. Every seat’s a good seat at Circle in the Square, so catch the next express train to Times Square (or better yet, the local to 50th Street) while there’s still room on the platform. Because you know what time it is, people: it’s showtime!5
Andrew Andrews attended In Transit at Circle in the Square Theatre in Manhattan on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 @ 8:00pm to write this review.