Famed composers Kander and Ebb are back on Broadway with a new musical, New York, New York. While loosely based on the film of the same name, which starred Robert DeNiro and Liza Minelli in the leading roles, the stage production serves as a refreshed version of the story first helmed in the era of 70s cinema. At the beginning of the show, in the opening scene, you will see a man fixing the lights on stage, setting the tone that this is a show that will undoubtedly highlight the city’s best parts. The show first acknowledges the relationship between second-generation Irish musician Jimmy Doyle played by Colton Ryan (Dear Evan Hansen, Girl from North Country), and African-American lounge singer Francine Evans played by Anna Uzele (Once on This Island, SIX) who encounter each other early on in the show. While pursuing Evans, Doyle also grapples with his insecurities, maintaining his musical ambitions and dealing with losing his brother in combat.
Kander and Ebb, known for classic musicals such as Cabaret and Chicago, revisit their roots in this show. There is Or the conflict between Madame Veltri, a woman initially waiting for her son to return from the war before finding out he went MIA while teaching a young Polish violinist named Alex Mann played by Oliver Prose. Both Veltri and Mann eventually bond over their heartbreaking losses and find solace with their fellow musicians. While Mateo Diaz played by Angel Sigala, is a percussionist who is originally from Cuba, has to deal with his abusive father, played by Leo Moctezuma, and take care of his mother, played by Janet Dacal. The lively number “Gold” helps to emphasize this fascination with the “American dream” that overtakes the lives of the family. The song and a few others incorporate lyrics crafted by Hamilton and In the Heights creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show is meant to take the audience not only on a journey through the city but through the perspectives of different groups that make New York what it is today. Some songs like “Can You Hear Me?” and “Music, Money, Love” help to drive the message home.
The first act is supposed to set the stage both literally and figuratively. While the main storyline seems to take priority, different relationships are being played out throughout the show. However, they get a bit jumbled in the first few numbers. That being said, the show rebounds after intermission. The second act blew me away. When you return to a story from intermission, you want the opener to reinvigorate your excitement for the performances ahead and I will say that it did just that while also fine-tuning the different relationships we were introduced to in the first act. Racial tensions are present in this musical but the lighthearted atmosphere created in the first act makes the through line you feel the tension more so in the second act than in the first which garnered a variety of “oos” and head shakes from audience members. John Clay III portrays Jesse Webb, a trumpeter that joins Doyle and Diaz to perform at the club that Doyle manages.
Most of the musical numbers between the dialogue-supported scenes gave necessary insight into the There is a Newsies vibe to this song. The sound of tap shoes fills the theater as we see our lead do a variety of steps on an unstable building pipe alongside his friends.
The show ends with Francine singing a beautiful rendition of the song “New York, New York”, first made famous by legendary singer Frank Sinatra. It was a full-circle moment and made the myriad of events that happened throughout the entire show worth reminiscing about.
While there are a few valid criticisms about the flow of the show’s storyline, the production did its job as it is a love letter to New York that people have been waiting to find for years to hear and see on a stage as New York, New York provides an upbeat yet heartfelt tale of what it means to keep up with life as it constantly changes and the different facets of being a New Yorker, whether homegrown or not.