In the online edition of today’s Wall Street Journal, I review In Transit, the last new Broadway musical of 2016. Here’s an excerpt.
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To transfer a modest little off-Broadway musical to Broadway in the hope of striking it rich is usually, if not quite always, a fatal mistake. The producers of “In Transit,” which ran at 59E59 in 2010, evidently thought that uptown audiences would flip over yet another show about yet another bunch of wide-eyed youngsters who come to New York to pursue their dreams, are battered by reality and emerge from the experience bruised but hopeful. And they might well have been right—had “In Transit” been anywhere near as good as “Avenue Q,” “A Chorus Line” or “Company,” the multi-plot ensemble musicals on which it is obviously based. Instead, the results remind me of Cyril Connolly’s remark that “imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.” In a tiny off-Broadway house, the slender charms of “In Transit” might possibly have filled their space. In Circle in the Square, the 776-seat thrust-stage Broadway theater that is notorious for eating shows, it looks like a college musical that got in over its head.
The gimmick that sets “In Transit” apart from other shows of its kind is that it is billed (correctly, so far as I can recall) as “Broadway’s first a cappella musical.” “A cappella” means “sung without instrumental accompaniment,” and a cappella vocal groups have long been popular at American colleges and universities. In recent years they’ve become positively trendy, which is how and why “In Transit” got written. Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth, who are collectively credited with the book and songs, sang together in such a group and got the idea from doing so to write a musical about people like themselves. Hence “In Transit,” which is performed by 11 singing actors and has no pit band: The actors make their own music.
This isn’t a bad idea on its face, but the pop-song score, arranged by Deke Sharon, is so watery and texturally unvaried that the initial charm of seeing an a cappella show wears off long before “In Transit” winds to a close (it runs for 100 intermission-free minutes)….
As for the book, it’s straight from the recycling center, a rickety assemblage of spare parts in which no one utters an unforeseeable word. Sincere “In Transit” most definitely is, but you’ve heard it all before….
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Read the whole thing here.