IN TRANSIT Rides into Town

In  Transit
Circle in the Square

Produced by Janet B. Rosen and Six Train Productions
Book by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth; Music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth; Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth; Vocal arrangements by Deke Sharon
Directed by Kathleen Marshall; Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall; Associate Director: David Eggers; Associate Choreographer: David Eggers
Scenic Design by Donyale Werle; Costume Design by Clint Ramos; Lighting Design by Donald Holder; Sound Design by Ken Travis; Hair and Wig Design by Cookie Jordan; Production Design by Caite Hevner
Executive Producer: Scott Landis; General Manager: Alchemy Production Group
Production Manager: Juniper Street Productions; Production Stage Manager: Kim Vernace; Stage Manager: Megan Schneid
Musical Supervisor: Rick Hip-Flores
Casting: Binder Casting; Press Representative: Polk & Co.; Advertising: AKA
David Abeles 
Moya Angela 
Mrs. Williams 
Steven "HeaveN" Cantor 
Broadway debut	Boxman 
Justin Guarini 
Telly Leung 
Erin Mackey 
Gerianne Pérez 
Broadway debut	Kathy 
Margo Seibert 
Chesney Snow 
Broadway debut	Boxman 
James Snyder 
Mariand Torres 
Broadway debut	Nina 
Nicholas Ward 
Standby: Adam Bashian (Chris, Dave), Laurel Harris (Ali, Jane, Kathy), Arbender Robinson (Steven, Trent) and Aurelia Williams (Althea, Momma, Mrs. Williams)

Four writers have attempted to change the face – and the age – of Broadway theatergoers.

For years Broadway has mostly played host to fortysomething tourists. Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth have apparently wanted to rectify that. The result is their IN TRANSIT, an ideal musical for twentysomething New Yorkers. There’s no other current Broadway, off-Broadway or OFF-off Broadway show that I suspect they’d like nearly as much.

In a way, IN TRANSIT is the great grandchild of ON THE TOWN, although it centers on another dozen people who just got off of the train in Manhattan instead of a boat in Brooklyn. To be sure, it’s not as (Claire De) looney as that landmark 1944 musical — and never wants to be. For that matter, the catchy title shows a serious underbelly, for its characters’ lives are in transition.

Riding the subway exacerbates their problems. There’s the malodorous train, the sudden schedule change, an uncooperative MetroCard dispenser and plenty of other doleful experiences that the authors detail from A to Z (or at least from the A train to the W). How smart that the first announcement we hear from the subway conductor is one that announces a delay. Train conductors, don’t tell us your troubles! Still, such announcements are better than the more plentiful ones that can’t be remotely understood.

Everything rings true except for Donyale Werle’s subway station set, which is cleaner than a Subway Sandwich Shop. That isn’t symptomatic of the show, though, which isn’t afraid to acknowledge the harsh liabilities of living in New York. Not long after one character blatantly exclaims “I love this city!” second thoughts appear.

Al Carmines in his musical JOAN put it best: “In the city, the definition of life is doing what you please in a very little space.” So Trent (Justin Guarini) and Steven (Telly Leung) live as out-and-proud gay men until they travel to Trent’s small hometown in Texas. There a preacher offers Trent an open Sunday when he can get married. Trent’s response is wonderfully funny.

That Trent’s mother (Moya Angela) welcomes her son’s fey “roommate” with open arms may seem too clueless of her. Wait, however, for a later dynamic scene in which mother and son deal with the matter — if you care to call it that.

If someone were to ask Jane (Margo Siebert) what she does for a living, she’d probably say “I’m an actress,” although her paychecks reveal that she does temp work. “I’m making self-delusion an art,” she rues. Although Jane has been told – and wants to believe — “Do what you love and the money will follow,” none has. Oh, she’s come close but, as she most accurately states, “You can’t put a call-back on a resume.”

The only thing worse for Jane would be a broke and broken boyfriend. Yet here comes Nate (James Snyder), out-of-work thanks to one of the 21st century’s greatest fears: criticizing someone at work and hitting “Reply All” rather than “Reply.” Mountain goat-hunting in Idaho can be easier than job-hunting in New York.

Everyone in the cast scores wonderfully except for Erin Mackey’s Ali. Don’t blame her; the otherwise on-target authors and director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall obviously wanted the character to be overly ditsy because of a romantic breakup. Considering how manic Ali acts, we’re inclined to believe the guy who dumped her had good reason even before we discover that she added the words “smiley-face” on a message to him.

Weaving in and around the action is “Boxman,” a subway entertainer who places a microphone near his vocal cords and lets out some heavy breathing worthy of an ICU or a brothel. The production couldn’t ask for more than Steven “HeaveN” (sic) Cantor, unless his alternate Chesney Snow is as good or better. Cantor makes inhuman sounds with his human voice, ones that defy description and would seem to be impossible to make. The big revelation comes, however, when Cantor puts down the microphone and begins speaking actual words. What a nice surprise to discover that he’s a very sincere, unmannered and convincing actor.

He even looks unruffled after the show’s worst exchange. Boxman, after hearing Jane sing, admiringly says “You got pipes!” to which she responds “No, I don’t got a pipe.” These writers, like most others, want to squeeze in a joke wherever they can, but a woman who’s been preparing all her life to be in Broadway musical knows what he means by pipes – especially since he’s using it in the plural.

The young audience members didn’t laugh at that, but still gave out many “Whoos!” to show their approval over much of the rest. Even if Circle in the Square were not a horseshoe-shaped theater where you can see an audience’s reaction right across from where you’re sitting, you’d know you were in a youthful crowd after a guy and girl kissed — for that’s when the twenty- and thirtysomethings gave out with a titillated “Ooooooooh!” Far more often than not, however, what they bestowed on the show was genuine laughter.

The big difference between this musical and every other one around is that it’s entirely done a capella – meaning without a single instrument on hand. To put it another way, IN TRANSIT is not only a bad dream for Local 802 (the musicians’ union) but for John Doyle, too. If you’re skeptical about experiencing a show without woodwinds, strings, percussion and brass, you may be surprised to find that you won’t miss them thanks to this extraordinary group that beautifully blends to make its own special brand of music. IN TRANSIT is a noble experiment that succeeds on its own terms

One of the best facets of the musical is that it isn’t afraid to give us only semi-happy endings. That it deals with city folk, city problems and city transportation means it might not score with all that many tourists. On the other hand, they may just find the show a nice place to visit even if they don’t want to live there. As for young New Yorkers, don’t just walk down the subway steps; walk down the ones leading to the below-ground Circle in the Square Theatre.


You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Tuesday at and each Friday at His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at