Review by Tulis McCall
(6 Oct 2010)
Okay. Fine. I admit I am a sucker for acapella singing that features close harmonies. I am also a sucker for a good story or six. In Transit has both, so I was a pig in muck watching this show.
If you have ever ridden the subway, you have at least once thought of all the stories that are crammed into your car alone. And then, so you don’t lose your mind, you let go of that idea. Well, this smart bunch of writers took a different approach. They surveyed the pickings, selected a few folk, and followed them through the tunnels of our town. We meet them in the opening song, all on the subway – they sing.
Gotta deal with the fact that i’m not the one drivin’
Gotta tune out the world as a means of survivin’
Not at home, not at play, not at work, not in bed
Not asleep, not awake, not alive and not dead
Not in place but still not moving ahead
Sound familiar? You bet.
The guide to this tale is the Boxman (Chesney Snow) who earns his keep doling out Bobby McFerrin-like percussion that ranges from the simple to the extraordinary. He is the voice of reason and history. He guides and shapes the lives, as well as the songs, that cross his path, and ultimately each life on the stage does just that. Or else they all come close to crossing paths (on this brilliant set that morphs from subway to above ground to up in the air inside a plane). It is not six degrees of separation after all. It is only two. Especially here in New York.
Ali (Hannah Laird) is still in love with the guy who dumped her. I need some space, better walk by your place And wait ‘til you turn on the light…. Jane (Denise Summerford) is temping at a dead end job with Goldman Deutsche J.P. Stanley, and dreaming about landing a part in a show I’ll never ever have to fake another lung condition, And then lie about the doctor, to sneak off to an Audition. Trent (Tommar Wilson) is in love with a guy and afraid to tell his mother. Nate (Graham Stevens) is just trying to survive – After all the years of Null Market Bliss, He’s maxed out… All of this sounds absurdly normal and not at all interesting on the surface, but sometimes it is not the facts, but the fact telling that makes all the difference. The stories here are tender and cryptic, sentimental and sarcastic, lyrical and edgy. They are universal and specific. And, to top it all off, they are told by seven remarkable performers.
And The City is as much a character as any of the singing actors. People on opposite sides of the track shout news to one another. The MTA Bitchy Booth Lady is hard pressed to leave her magazine and give aid. The troop of Brownies takes up the entire car. Married men on the prowl meet up with women who want no commitment. Former romantic partners bump into each other at rush hour when there is no escape. And, just as you have done, every once in awhile a person on the train pauses to soak in the miracle of humanity hurtling through the underground. There is safety in anonymity while at the same time everyone wants to know that they matter.
In Transit is snappy, brilliant work. It is a shot in the arm. It is a breath of fresh air. It is all those things and more.
"Even when the musical, directed by Joe Calarco, strays toward the saccharine, the actors sing with authority."
Ken Jaworowski for New York Times
"The lyrics are functional enough, but the remarkably unvaried music bears only a passing resemblance to melody."
John Simon for Bloomberg
"Features catchy and ingratiating sounds but not particularly original storylines."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Mary-Mitchell Campbell's musical direction makes everything sound perfectly lovely unless 90 minutes of a-capella music drives you bats, which it does me."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Theatergoers who turn pale at the thought of a musical performed a cappella can breathe easy at"In Transit," an unconventional, unorthodox and unassuming new Off Broadway musical "
Steven Suskin for Variety