Wednesday, April 19, 2023

NYC Theater Trip 2023: "New York, New York" at St. James Theatre

Show*: 6

Title: New York, New York

Location: St. James Theatre

Written By: book by David Thompson and Sharon Washington, music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb, additional lyrics by Lin-Manual Miranda

Summary: An adaptation of the 1977 movie about two struggling musicians in NYC (played by Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro) for which the inconic song was written, with new songs, characters, and plots added.

Highlights: This is another movie I've never seen (which I don't think is uncommon); in fact I had no idea that the song so identified with Frank Sinatra was actually written for Liza Minnelli to sing in this movie. From what I hear, this one was changed a lot, and I think too many things were added. In addition to the central love story, which is compelling if a bit cliche, there's an added element of an interracial relationship, a Holocaust survivor, a mother waiting for her POW son to return (spoiler alert that's no surprise - he doesn't), a Cuban immigrant with an abusive father (who may also be gay), and more. I saw the show in previews, so it's possible they'll tighten things up before the April 26 opening, but right now it comes off as trying to do too much with too heavy a hand. But there are some great moments. Director/choreographer Susan Stroman evokes classic musicals like On the Town in her dance montages of NYC, and there's a tap dance number done on scaffolding high above the city that's a thrill. I enjoyed the mostly new score, and the cast is fantastic. Another SIX queen, Anna Uzele, makes the most of the lead role of Francine; Colton Ryan is a charming Jimmy, with more than a little Frank in his voice, but his own interesting delivery of lyrics; and Clyde Alves is a terrific dancer and sidekick as Jimmy's pal Tommy. The set is stunning (in what I heard may be the most expensive production design ever on Broadway) - multiple massive moving three-story structures representing apartment buildings with balconies and fire escapes, absolutely gorgeous recreations of many iconic NYC landmarks using lighting and backdrops, and an orchestra pit that rises up to take center stage in the final number. And that final number? The title song, of course. And the thrill of belting out "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere, come on come through, New York, New York!" with the cast, band, and a full theater, almost makes up for what the show may be lacking. There's a great musical in there, if they can carve away the extra stuff to reveal it.

*Once again, I'm using an abbreviated Fringe-style summary for my NYC 2023 trip, since I am in the greatest city in the world with much more exciting things to do than write! Click here to see all of my Broadway-related blog posts.