“I heard that this musical is about the subways of New York,” the lady standing in front of me said to her husband. “What makes this musical different than the other ones?” With In Transit, the newest Broadway musical, it’s not just about the “subways of New York.” It’s about the people that take the subway and the lessons learned while living in New York.
The musical, from the writers of Frozen (Kristin Anderson-Lopez) and Pitch Perfect, depicts a group of people with intertwining stories. The thing that binds them together? They all use the subway to get from one place to another. The stories differ from each other: the aspiring actress falls in love with the broke salesman; the gay couple with one struggling to reveal his orientation to his mother; the woman who just keeps running after a bad breakup. With the Boxman, the narrator, keeping all the stories tied together, the show makes a point of showing the struggles that all New Yorkers go through in everyday life. From the turnstiles eating the money off of your MetroCard to the beggars living in the subway stations, every person who has traveled the subway can relate to this story in some shape or form.
The interesting element that the show brings to Broadway is the fact that everything is acapella. Every sound you hear is provided by the human voice; there is no soundboard to make each sound necessary. When you hear the sounds of the subway pulling into the platform, that’s a sound provided by an actor somewhere off-stage. At some points in the show, it’s made evident that someone is beatboxing right in the middle of a scene. The show even makes a point in the beginning to tell the audience that “everything is provided by voice” and to make a note of it. It’s impressive, and something that no one would expect from the Great White Way, which makes everyone fall in love with it.
Something worth noting is the different styles of music the musical showcases. The show runs by the rhythm of New York, so no song sounds the same. Each scene has a related song connected to it, and each song is a different genre. When Nate, played by James Snyder from the Broadway show If/Then, laments about having no money, the song accompanying the scene resembles a 70’s blues song. The subway runs on the genre of hip-hop, a stroke of genius that seems so natural. As Jane, actress Margo Seibert brings a style of music that could only be classified as all her own. Without the music, the show wouldn’t have the uniqueness that it brings to Broadway. The show brings a sense of hope that no matter what happens, all your problems will get better and that there’s always another day.
If you’re looking for a contemporary show about how it really is to live in New York, take a subway to the Circle in the Square Theatre. You are in for a treat, and who knows? Maybe you’ll start listening to the rhythms “deep beneath the city” when you leave.