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

Published: April 27, 2023

There’s a giant new Broadway musical referred to as “New York, New York,” and it’s primarily based on the Martin Scorsese movie bearing the identical title.

Sort of.

Both the film and the present have lead characters named Jimmy Doyle and Francine Evans, each are set instantly following World War II and each prominently characteristic a sure anthem by John Kander and Fred Ebb. You know, the one whose first 5 notes, plunked on a piano, are sufficient to robotically immediate the mind to fill in the remaining.

And it’s that title music alone, reasonably than the film, that’s the true inspiration for the sprawling, unwieldy, surprisingly boring present that opened on Wednesday night time on the St. James Theater.

Extrapolating from its lyrics, “New York, New York,” directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, is in regards to the individuals sporting these “vagabond shoes,” those who “want to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep.” Jimmy (Colton Ryan) and Francine (Anna Uzele) now rub elbows with characters dreamed up by the e book author David Thompson with Sharon Washington. They are musicians and singers, strivers and dreamers. And sadly, none make a lot of an impression, mired as they’re in a syrupy muck of fine sentiments and grating civic cheerleading.

As the assorted story strains transfer towards their inevitable intersection, any signal of wrinkle or kink has been smoothed out. The most distinguished victims are the reimagined Jimmy and Francine, who’ve been flattened into cardboard figures. The movie’s Jimmy, portrayed by Robert De Niro, was an obnoxious, abusive, narcissistic jerk of a sax participant who fell for Liza Minnelli’s Francine, a passionate singer who labored her method up from canary in huge bands to solo star; their risky relationship wouldn’t cross the odor check with 2023 audiences.

The new Jimmy is merely a minor irritant who has graduated from good saxophonist to good multi-instrumentalist equally comfy enjoying jazz with the African American trumpeter Jesse (John Clay III) and Latin grooves with the Cuban percussionist Mateo (Angel Sigala), whose personal tales are delineated in broad strokes. That Jimmy finally ends up as a human bridge between the musical kinds of Harlem and Spanish Harlem is sort of a feat for a white-bread Irish child. (A Jewish violinist performed by Oliver Prose largely exists on the sideline.)

Meanwhile, Francine comes throughout as a spunky, empowered free spirit plugged right into a Twenty first-century outlet. A Black girl, she overcomes the treacherous waters of the music scene with relative ease, and setbacks appear to glide off her.

Ryan (“Girl From the North Country,” Connor within the movie of “Dear Evan Hansen”) and Uzele (“Once on This Island,” Catherine Parr in “Six”) are technically effective, however they don’t fill characters drawn as sketches. They by no means discover the ache that drives each Francine and Jimmy, nor the sexual attraction between them.

This creates a central void that additional restrains the overly polished e book — friction feeds fiction.

And if anyone is aware of that, it’s John Kander. An efficient mixture of louche syncopation, unabashed romanticism and biting sarcasm lengthy set Kander and Ebb aside on Broadway, from “Cabaret” to “Chicago” to their good earlier collaboration with Stroman, “The Scottsboro Boys.”

The rating for “New York, New York” juxtaposes new songs Kander wrote with Lin-Manuel Miranda, just like the propulsive “Music, Money, Love,” with older ones set to lyrics by Ebb. Of these, the perfect recognized (you-know-what and “But the World Goes ’Round”) have been pulled from the Scorsese film, whereas others have been repurposed, akin to “A Quiet Thing” from the 1965 present “Flora the Red Menace,” and “Marry Me” from “The Rink” (1984).

But regardless of when or who they have been written with, too most of the songs lack Kander and Ebb’s signature serrated edge. Partly this has to do with Sam Davis’s preparations and music course, which have a deficit of oomph, and thus additional reinforce the present’s sexlessness — there isn’t any pulse when there isn’t any swing. (Kander and Ebb have been able to that greater than most Broadway creators: Just hearken to, say, the fantastically driving “Gimme Love” from “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”)

The new present’s rah-rah tone finally turns into numbing. This is all of the extra irritating as a result of ambivalence is baked into the title music, which alludes to the town’s mercurial temperament. “If I can make it there/I’d make it anywhere” — we’re in a troublesome city — is adopted by “It’s up to you/New York, New York,” which deprives the singer of company. But the present follows the triumphant template set by Frank Sinatra reasonably than the extra ambiguous one imparted by Minnelli. In this rose-colored imaginative and prescient, trials are momentary, everyone will get alongside, and no one runs up towards New York’s dangerous aspect.

Stroman has a uncommon affinity for traditional Broadway showmanship, as illustrated by her work on “Crazy for You” and “The Producers,” however she will be able to additionally veer into radical stylization, as in “The Scottsboro Boys.”

Here, the flashes of inspiration are few and much between. A spotlight is a faucet quantity staged on excessive beams, with a pair inscribed with “JK 3181927” and “FE 481928” — Kander and Ebb’s beginning dates, and two of the Easter eggs lurking in Beowulf Boritt’s vibrant set, dominated by towering hearth escapes. The magical second often called Manhattanhenge is evoked with a terrific help from the lighting designer Ken Billington. And there’s, as all the time, the visceral thrill of watching a giant band rise as much as the stage, when Jimmy’s combo kicks off the title music on the finish.

It isn’t a lot to recollect from a present that clocks in at almost three hours and had such formidable potential. “You can be anyone here,” Jesse says at one level, “do anything here.”

If solely “New York, New York” had interpreted that line not as a reassurance, however as a problem to dare.

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

Source web site: www.nytimes.com