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HomeVideos‘New York, New York’ Review: The Big Apple, Without Bite

‘New York, New York’ Review: The Big Apple, Without Bite


A big new Broadway musical is called. “New York, New York,” And it is based on the Martin Scorsese film of the same title.

in a sense.

Both the film and the show star Jimmy Doyle and Francine Evans, are both set shortly after World War II, and both feature a distinctive John Kander and Fred Ebb theme song. You know, the one whose first five notes, stuck on a piano, are enough to make the brain automatically fill in the rest.

And it’s the title song alone, rather than the film itself, that is the real inspiration for the sprawling, surprisingly dim show that opens Wednesday night at the St. James Theatre.

extract from its lyrics, “New York, New York,” Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it’s about people wearing “wandering boots,” who want to “wake up in the city that never sleeps.” Jimmy (Colton Ryan) and Francine (Anna Yuzel) now rub elbows with the characters that the book’s author, David Thompson, dreamed up with Sharon Washington. They are musicians and singers, strugglers and dreamers. And sadly, no one makes much of an impression, because they’re drowning in the banter of good vibes and urban cheerleading.

As the various storylines move towards their inevitable intersection, any semblance of a wrinkle or kink is smoothed over. The most prominent victims are the reimagined Jimmy and Francine, who have been flattened into cardboard. The film’s Jimmy, played by Robert De Niro, was an obnoxious, abusive, narcissistic jerk of a sex player who fell for Liza Minnelli’s Francine, an aspiring singer who went from canary to solo in big bands. Worked up to star. Their volatile relationship won’t pass the smell test with 2023 audiences.

The new Jimmy is just a little rascal who has graduated from good saxophonist to brilliant multi-instrumentalist, playing jazz with African American trumpeter Jesse (John Clay III) and Latin grooves with Cuban percussionist Mateo (Angel Sigala). Has graduated with equal ease. Stories are described in broad strokes. It ends up being a human bridge between the musical styles of Jimmy Harlem and Spanish Harlem which is quite a feat for a white bread Irish kid. (A Jewish violinist played by Oliver Prowse is mostly on the sidelines.)

Meanwhile, Francine comes across as a spunky, empowered free spirit plugged into a 21st-century outlet. A black woman, she navigates the treacherous waters of the music scene with relative ease, and failures seem to elude her.

Ryan (“Girl from the North Country,” Connor in Dear Evan Hansen) and Aziel (“Once Upon a Time in This Island,” Kathryn Parr in “Six”) are technically fine, but they don’t fill the drawn-out roles. are as diagram. They never get the pain that drives both Francine and Jimmy, nor the sexual attraction between them.

This creates a central void that further inhibits an overly polished book—friction feeds fiction.

And if anyone knows, it’s John Kander. An effective mix of louche syncopation, audacious romanticism and biting satire set Kander and Ebb apart on Broadway, from “Cabaret” to “Chicago,” with Stroman, “The Scottsboro Boys.” to the brilliant first collaboration of

The score for “New York, New York” combines Kinder’s new songs written with Lin-Manuel Miranda, such as the upbeat “Music, Money, Love,” with older songs set to Ebb’s lyrics. Of these, the most famous (You Know What and “But the World Goes ‘Round”) was lifted from the Scorsese film, while others were reworked, such as from the 1965 show “Flora the Red”. “A Quiet Thing” from Menace” “Mary Me” from “The Rink” (1984).

But no matter when or with whom they were written, many of the songs lack Kander and Ebb’s signature serrated edge. Partly this has to do with Sam Davies’ arrangements and music direction, which lack oomph, and thus reinforce the show’s sexlessness – when there’s no swing, there’s no pulse. (Kander and Ebb were more capable than most Broadway creators: just listen, say, driving brilliantly. “give love” (from “Kiss of the Spider-Woman”).

The rah-rah tone of the new show eventually becomes numb. It’s all the more depressing as the title song becomes ambivalent, hinting at the civilized mood of the city. “If I can make it there/I’ll ​​make it anywhere”—we’re in a tough town—is followed by “It’s up to you/New York, New York,” which strips the singer of agency. . But the show follows the winning template laid out by Frank Sinatra rather than the more vague one provided by Minnelli. In this rosy vision, trials are temporary, everyone gets along, and no one runs afoul of New York’s evil side.

Stroman has an uncanny affinity for classic Broadway showmanship, as evidenced by her work on “Crazy for You” and “The Producers,” but she can also go for radical stylizations, as in “The Scottsboro Boys.” ” in.

Here, flashes of inspiration are few and far between. A highlight is a tap number mounted on the high beams, with a pair inscribed “JK 3181927” and “FE 481928” — Kander and Ebb’s birthdates, and two Easter eggs hidden in an animated set of Beowulf burettes. , which is strongly dominated by fire safety. . Known as the magic moment. The Manhattan Henge Designed with great help from lighting designer Ken Billington. And, as always, there’s the thrill of seeing a big band take to the stage, when Jimmy’s combo kicks in at the end of the title song.

That’s not much to remember from a show that clocks in at nearly three hours and had such great potential. “You can be anyone here,” Jessie says at one point, “do anything here.”

If only “New York, New York” had interpreted that line not as a reassurance, but a challenge to dare.

New York, New York
at the St. James Theatre, Manhattan; newyorknewyorkbroadway.com. Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes.

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