New York, New York

Original Broadway Cast, 2023 (Wine & Peaches LLC) 0.5 out of 5 stars (0.5 / 5) New York, New York is destined to go down in musical theater history books for its creative team, which includes the legendary composer John Kander as well as director/choreographer Susan Stroman and lyricist Lin Manuel Miranda, who spearheaded the two most Tony-nominated musicals of all time. Unfortunately, the show itself will be remembered as a colossal disappointment: Rather than a love letter to the city that doesn’t sleep, or even to the post-WW II era in which the action takes place, what we have here is a misguided mishmash of weaker items from the Kander & Ebb repertoire forced into a stage musical with the number of main and featured characters greatly expanded from the film on which it is very loosely based. The plot largely concerns the troubled romance between struggling musician Jimmy Doyle and struggling singer Francine Evans, but the creators seem to have determined that these characters weren’t interesting enough for an entire show. As a result, also on hand to clutter up the proceedings are an Hispanic immigrant and his abusive father and loving mother, a cleaning woman turned opera singer, a Jewish immigrant and his violin teacher, et al. “A Quell ‘Amor,” performed by the newly minted opera singer, is perhaps the nadir of the show; it makes no sense in or out of context, we never hear from its singer again, and the song’s title is 50% of its lyrics. Indeed, lyrics are not the primary concern of this production, as shown by the inclusion of six extended instrumental pieces titled “Morning in New York,” “New York in the Rain,” “New York in the Summer,” “New York in the Snow,” “New York at Night,” and “New York Concerto.” (Orchestrators Sam Davis and Daryl Waters have done an admirable job of creating a period feel and an excitement that’s lacking in the plot.) One of the oddest aspects of the show and this album is the fact that Colton Ryan, who portrays Jimmy Doyle, sings every song as if he were being strangled, emitting some of the ugliest vowel sounds ever heard. On the other hand, Anna Uzele as Francine raises the roof with her big numbers, but her acting is not quite at the level of her vocal ability. The only two pitch-perfect performances are from Emily Skinner, as the aforementioned violin teacher, and the sadly underused Clyde Alves, as the leading man’s best friend. Four demo recording are appended to this album, and in the tracks where you can hear Fred Ebb singing his own material, you start to understand what this show could’ve been if that great lyricist had lived longer: a unique, biting, entertaining final curtain call for Kander & Ebb. Instead, listeners may end up, to quote one of the show’s stronger songs, sorry they asked. — Charles Kirsch