Thursday 8 June 2023

New York, New York - Review

St. James Theatre, New York


Music & lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb
Additional lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Written by David Thompson
Co-written by Sharon Washington
Directed & choreographed by Susan Stroman

The company of New York, New York

Recently opened on Broadway, New York, New York is a new musical, loosely drawn from the 1977 movie but re-engineered with the compilation of John Kander and Fred Ebb numbers now enhanced with additional lyrics from Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

The 1977 tale was of a bittersweet and tempestuous romance that evolved between saxophonist Jimmy (Robert De Niro) and singer Francine (Liza Minnelli). This time around David Thompson with Sharon Washington, both long time collaborators with Kander and the late Ebb, have re-imagined a narrative that captures the movie’s complex emotional travails but, reflecting the post-war placing of the plot, adds an additional thread focussing on the racism that black Americans were facing at that time (and for some decades after). In this iteration of the yarn it is Colton Ryan and Anna Uzele who play Jimmy and Francine with assured talent.

Thompson and Washington also transform the original tightly drawn narrative into more of a melting-pot with the introduction of  minor Hispanic and Jewish sun-plots. At times these underlying stories become a mawkish distraction, and one is left wishing that the show could have been more of a straightforward screen-to-stage translation of the movie. That some of those 1977 songs (not all of which were by Kander and Ebb) have also been dropped is another disappointment.

But many aspects of what are left still make for a show with outstanding moments of musical theatricality. Susan Stroman directs and choregraphs and there are few of her peers that can helm a show with such audacious vision and talent. Wine and Peaches is a number that is stunningly tap-danced by a company of construction workers high above the clouds atop the steel beams of a skyscraper that they are building. And equally Stroman’s vision in how she directs Uzele to deliver those Kander and Ebb gems of But The World Goes Round and the show’s eponymous title number is musical theatre gold.

Under Susan Stroman’s vision, New York, New York makes for a classy night at the theatre.

Booking to 14th January 2024

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