NY sub­way in­spires Broad­way’s first a capella mu­si­cal

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

New York’s cityscape re­ver­ber­ates with pound­ing jack­ham­mers and blar­ing car horns, but it’s the ca­cophonous sub­way that per­haps best epit­o­mizes the bustling me­trop­o­lis. A cho­rus of voices sans in­stru­men­tal ac­com­pa­ni­ment will soon bring the tran­sit sys­tem’s rhythms to Broad­way, the first time the fa­mous the­ater dis­trict will host an a cap­pella show. “In Tran­sit” brings a rather un­con­ven­tional touch to the Broad­way stage: in a world known for its lively or­ches­tras and con­sis­tent vi­brato, the mu­si­cal strips back the tra­di­tional ex­trav­a­gance to show­case the hu­man voice.

“They sing, they dance, they act and they are the band,” said Kath­leen Mar­shall, the ac­claimed di­rec­tor and chore­og­ra­pher of the mu­si­cal, which is cur­rently in pre­views and will pre­miere De­cem­ber 11.

A quar­tet of song­writ­ers scored the show, in­clud­ing its co-cre­ator Kris­ten An­der­son-Lopez, who cowrote songs for the an­i­mated hit movie “Frozen” in­clud­ing “Let it Go,” for which she and her hus­band won an Acad­emy Award. “A cap­pella is this in­cred­i­ble metaphor, be­cause you have to be tun­ing in to the other peo­ple and you have to be lis­ten­ing,” she told the magazine En­ter­tain­ment Weekly. “When we jump onto the sub­way we’re one place and we’re go­ing some­place else. “Re­ally life is all about be­ing be­tween sta­tions. That’s what we’re re­ally try­ing to say with this piece.”

A capella takes cen­ter stage

More than 20 years ago “Av­enue X” was the first mu­si­cal to fea­ture a cap­pella, but it was staged Off-Broad­way-a cir­cuit typ­i­fied by smaller venues, more ex­per­i­men­tal con­tent and dif­fer­ent fi­nan­cial stakes. More re­cently the two “Pitch Per­fect” films and the tele­vi­sion se­ries “Glee,” which ran from 2009-2015, have helped bring the a cap­pella style back to the fore­front. More than a thou­sand a cap­pella groups boast a pres­ence at uni­ver­si­ties across the US, and many par­tic­i­pate in an­nual re­gional and na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Bring­ing the genre to Broad­way seemed a nat­u­ral next step. “In Tran­sit,” which has been in the works since 1999 — and had a stint Off-Broad­way in 2010 — de­tails the in­ter­twined lives of 11 New York­ers nav­i­gat­ing the city’s chaotic streets and tun­nels. “It’s about peo­ple find­ing them­selves or try­ing to get to that place in life where they say: ‘Yes, I’m here, I made it some­where,’” said James Sny­der, who plays Nate, a young man who has lost his job in fi­nance. “I think that’s some­thing re­lat­able whether you live in a small town or in a big city like New York.”

Visu­al­iz­ing sound

The ac­tors had to mod­ify their vo­cals to pull off the show’s har­monies, work­ing un­der the di­rec­tion of a cap­pella guru Deke Sharon. “This type of singing is dif­fer­ent from a reg­u­lar Broad­way sound,” said David Abe­les, who plays the char­ac­ter Dave. He ex­plained that the per­form­ers sing in a straight tone to blend their voices, thereby evok­ing more in­stru­men­tal sounds. “Some­times Deke would have us mim­ing the in­stru­ment that we’re sup­posed to be play­ing,” he said. “This ac­tu­ally helps be­cause you vi­su­al­ize the sound.”

The vo­cal or­ches­tra­tion of “In Tran­sit” repli­cates the shouts of har­ried pas­sen­gers, the whoosh­ing sound the sub­way makes as it ap­proaches and the low rum­bling of the trains shut­tling across the labyrinthian un­der­belly and el­e­vated plat­forms of the city. In a mu­si­cal fo­cused on com­mut­ing, Abe­les said the core mes­sage is about sa­vor­ing the jour­ney. “There’s a re­ally touch­ing story here about peo­ple’s in­ter­ac­tions,” he said. “About lives in New York, about liv­ing in the mo­ment-rather than at the des­ti­na­tion you’re go­ing for.” — AFP

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