BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
A world premiere by Primary Stages, the a-capella musical "In Transit" gets a typically admirable production at 59E59 Theatres, where the show opened Tuesday.
The seven-member company is very quick and able, vocalizing music like mad and nimbly creating dozens of little character bits under Joe Calarco's ever-inventive direction on a handsome set by Anna Louizos that flexibly invokes New York City's subway system and other places.
The usually up-tempo, tuneful score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth is intelligently developed with neatly made lyrics, especially in a couple of major ensemble numbers as people rush to work or fuel up around the coffee cart. In addition to these attractive compositions, many songs are nicely varied in modes beyond doo-wop including gospel and hip-hop.
And, of course, the constant a-capella harmonies pushing them along lend the score extra distinction. Mary-Mitchell Campbell's musical direction makes everything sound perfectly lovely unless 90 minutes of a-capella music drives you bats, which it does me.
Making the proceedings seem even more interminable, at least to me, is that the intermingled New York stories and characters the authors choose to musicalize are more familiar than a Dr. Zizmore ad.
There's the gay guy whose unsuspecting holy rolling mom comes to visit. The actress-slash-temp on the verge of getting her big Broadway break or maybe not. The running gag about the nasty window clerk and the guy whose card never works. The lonely young woman anxious about bumping into her ex. The broke Wall Streeter desperately trying to put up a prosperous front to his buddies.
Please, folks, should any of these plots — and a-capella vocalizing in particular — tickle your tastes, by all means check out "In Transit," since the material is very well served by all concerned. Personally, I was so bored by it that I could scarcely wait to get out of the theater and into the subway for home.
"In Transit" continues through Oct. 30 at 59E59 Theatres, 59 E. 59 St., New York. Call (212) 279-4200 or visit www.primarystages.org.