Filichia Features: IN TRANSIT Is Ready to Roll

Filichia Features: IN TRANSIT Is Ready to Roll

By Peter Filichia on September 05, 2019

Although the sound of an orchestra has enhanced many a musical, In Transit still scores without them.

You needn't hire musicians when producing this 2017 show that likes to describe itself, "Broadway's First A Capella Musical."

It's the creation of Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. Anderson-Lopez has become the best-known from her two Oscars and two Grammys for Frozen.

All but Wordsworth sang in college a cappella groups: Anderson-Lopez at Williams, Kaplan at Carnegie Mellon; Ford was part of Yale's esteemed Whiffenpoofs, arguably the most famous a capella group of all.

After they met Kaplan, they formed a group called The Red Line because all took the 1 and (now-defunct) 9 subways. Although they covered Madonna's "Lies in Your Eyes" and R&H's "My Favorite Things," the quartet saw that when they included their original songs about subway travails they got the most applause.

New Yorkers wouldn't agree with Comden and Green, who in one of their musicals described the subway as "that magic train of dreams." As any New Yorker can tell you, there are late trains, stalled trains and no trains. While you wait, you might see an unwelcomed rodent speeding over the tracks. Once the train does arrive, as the characters say in the lyrics, "A muffled speaker tells us to expect delays ... the aroma's unique … "there's gum on the seats and graffiti on the wall -- and I'm part of it all."

These riders include Nate, a banker who had "cufflinks and clout; now I'm broke." That's what happens after your boss hears your joke about him and doesn't see the humor.

Nate's Metrocard - the debit card that gains you entry to the subway - malfunctions. (Many do.) Trying to get sympathy from Althea, the transit worker inside the bullet-proof-glassed booth, is as easy as Jean Valjean's receiving it from Javert.

However, the authors are careful to show Althea's frustration in being confined to a glorified cage eight hours daily and dealing with a mostly irate or cluelessly confused public.

Nate's sister is Ali, a West Coast native, who followed boyfriend Dave to New York only to find that he's followed someone else. Like many who've been similarly spurned, she can't stay away from the phone to give him another call and hope he'll give her another chance.

The subway is a place where you often run into people you know - which happens to Ali and Dave. Worse, Ali meets someone she doesn't know: Kathy, Dave's new love.

Jane temps and sings "Out of my window I see a Broadway marquee - and to me that's a helluva view." Sure, but she'd prefer seeing her name on one, which is why she came to New York.

The bromide "It's hard to be poor, but it's harder to be poor after you've been rich" certainly applies to Jane. Yes, she gets that part in a Great Big Broadway Show only to have the producers reconsider and seek A Star. And she was just about to give everyone the good news at her upcoming 15 th high school reunion …

At least Jane meets Nate and they hit it off. Unfortunately, what's gone off at that moment is his landline thanks to long-unpaid bills. So when Jane calls, she finds his phone out-of-service and feels further out of luck.

Just as unhappy is Jane's agent Trent. He's to visit his mother in Texas and fiancé Steve insists on joining him. He wants Trent's mother to know that he's not just Trent's roommate.

And what happens when Mom's pastor asks Trent if he has a girlfriend and prods "The last Sunday in June is free on the church calendar."

Trent drolly notes "We're in a parade that day …"

Watching it all is Boxman, an on-the-platform musician who provides much of the music that these short-distance travelers are too preoccupied to hear. He's the window to the other characters who not only don't "stop and smell the roses" but don't stop to hear his music.

The show offers reggae, hip-hop, rock, pop - and a good role for each actor. In fact, the Drama Desk gave the original cast an Outstanding Ensemble Award.

Out-of-towners who believe New York is a nice place to visit but wouldn't want to live there will see their opinions confirmed. And yet, they'll also glean why another hundred people just got off of the train in the city. It's the survival of the fittest, and In Transit fittingly explains it all.

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at . He can be heard most weeks of the year on

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