By THE ENTHUSIAST
Home Opener The musical opens on a workman installing lights on a giant rooftop sign reading ‘New York, New York’. As the melody from the theme song plays, he begins to turn the bulb he’s installing in time to the music. Suddenly the entire sign blazes to life. ‘Holy shit!’ the startled bulb-twirler shouts. ‘I love this town!’ He does. And you do. And so does this musical.
A Star Is Born Watching Colton Ryan (Jimmy Doyle) in his first Broadway lead is a Star is Born moment - not in a ‘his success will be the ruin of someone else’ way, to be clear, just in a ‘something rare and amazing is happening here’ way. When Ralph Waldo Emerson read Leaves of Grass by a then-unknown Walt Whitman, he sent him a letter that read ‘I greet you at the beginning of a great career’. Ryan’s dressing room should be papered over with such letters. What Ryan does is unique to him. That’s about as high as praise gets on the Main Stem.
Miranda’s Right After In The Heights and Hamilton, it was reasonable to expect - maybe even secretly to wish - that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s next Broadway outing would fall short; that whatever he turned his hand to would be good, sure, but surely not great. Astonishingly, however, Miranda’s lyrics here are jaw-dropping one again. Every song he’s written in addition to the Kander & Ebb originals (from the 1977 movie on which the musical is based) shines like one those bulbs in the sign from the opening scene. And one of those new songs - "A Very Quiet Thing", sung by Jimmy Doyle in the second act - had this reviewer literally open-mouthed in wonder. Top of the Heap Not only does this show look like it cost a jillion dollars, it looks like it cost a jillion dollars well spent, which is a different thing entirely. Beowulf Berrit’s sets and projections delight throughout, especially the multi-story fire escapes that tower like battleships at both sides of the stage for much of the show. A first-act scene featuring ironworkers tap-dancing on beams high above the city is so deftly staged that you’ll find yourself hoping against hope that no one falls - even though they’d actually drop only a foot or two if they did. Make It New It’s a credit to writers David Thompson and Sharon Washington and director-choreographer Susan Stroman that material that could so easily have felt shopworn comes across as fresh and vital here. New York, New York interweaves the stories of Gotham stalwarts we know all too well - the girl from out of town with a dream, the boy with talent but a temper, the refugee looking to prove himself in the new world, et al - but makes them new to us. How is that even possible? Holy shit! I love this musical!
The Enthusiast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. But what he declines to praise can speak volumes.