In addition to being one of the world’s great cities and premier tourist destinations, New York is home to countless dreamers, movers and shakers, and passionate individuals all vying for their piece of the American Dream. As the famous line from the classic song goes, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you. New York, New York.” In that spirit, it’s fitting that the Broadway theatre, a New York institution in itself, often gives voice to the stories of these individuals in pursuit of happiness through trials, tribulations, failures, and triumphs. This month we take a closer look at plays and musicals that highlight the lives of New Yorkers. A Bronx Tale, In Transit, Oh, Hello On Broadway, and The Humans are all stories that feature the concrete jungle as a backdrop while telling the tales of the people who walk its streets.
A Bronx Tale (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.)
As its title suggests, the new musical A Bronx Tale is a quintessential New York story. Even its creation is the stuff of big city dreams. The new production is based on the iconic one-man show by Chazz Palminteri, which premiered on the New York stage and was later adapted in the hit film of the same name, which also serves as inspiration for the new musical. A Bronx Tale follows the coming-of-age of one young man in the Bronx during the 1960s. With the turbulent decade marked by racial tension and organized crime as the setting, the story of family, respect, and love centers on the young man’s struggle over whether to follow in the footsteps of his honorable father or the mob boss he idolizes. The new musical features an original Doo-Wop- flavored score by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken (interview here) and is directed by screen legend Robert De Niro and Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, with choreography by Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo. The show, with its cast of larger-than-life characters, set in one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods, is a true New York story.
In Transit (Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 W. 50th St.)
In addition to being a fresh original show that gives voice to the New York experience, the new musical In Transit is also breaking ground as the first ever Broadway musical to be performed entirely a capella. From the musical talents behind Frozen and Pitch Perfect, In Transit is a look at the intertwining lives of 11 New Yorkers as they pound the pavement, hop on the subway, and cross paths on their day-to-day journeys. In what is ultimately a poignant look at city living, the musical takes audiences on a journey as its characters hop on the express train toward their wildest dreams with all the successes, failures, and chance encounters that come up along the way. This uplifting and funny musical is the perfect snapshot into the lives of New Yorkers.
Oh, Hello on Broadway (Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.)
Two of the hottest stars in comedy today, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, bring their most memorable characters to the Broadway stage in Oh, Hello on Broadway. Here, the dynamic duo come to life as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, two native New Yorkers in their 70s who live on the Upper West Side and offer their outrageously opinionated observations on nearly everything with hilarious results. The comedians first brought these characters into the world on NYC improv stages before taking them to YouTube and ultimately Comedy Central. This new 90-minute show is part scripted and part improvised but always quick-witted and unexpected. Directed by theatre world favorite Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), this is one New York story through and through from its creators to the characters they constructed.
The Humans (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.)
Another play set in New York and centered on the lives of people who not only call the city home but also those who visit it, is the acclaimed drama and Tony Award-winning Best Play, The Humans. After a smash Off-Broadway run, Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Stephen Karam’s new play transferred to Broadway this spring, where it has played to great success. The critically lauded drama is a slice- of-life look at one family’s Thanksgiving dinner set in an apartment on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. With familial drama in tow, Erik Blake brings his family to the new apartment of his youngest daughter and her boyfriend. What starts out as a typical family holiday slowly builds towards something much more tense as mysterious happenings around the new apartment mirror the family’s descent into dysfunction. Directed by Tony winner Joe Mantello and featuring the entire original Off-Broadway cast including Girls’ Sarah Steele, this critical favorite is at once funny, moving, and unsettling. The New York Times has called The Humans “the finest play of the season,” and it continues to offer an unflinching look at the realities of life in the city and 21st century America.