New York, New York: A New Musical at St James Theatre, New York City
The next in a long line of film-to-stage adaptations that join Heathers, Mean Girls and Dirty Dancing is New York, New York: A New Musical – first seen on Broadway this year. Based on Martin Scorsese’s film that previously starred Robert De Niro and Liza Minelli, just by the names of everyone involved – from John Kander and his work on the music, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s aid with the lyrics, and Susan Stroman in her direction and choreography – this performance should have been an easy five stars – even the show’s nine Tony nominations speak for themselves. But while the sets are big and immersive, seemingly fitting for the aesthetic of New York City, and the songs are grand and breathtakingly performed, alas there’s something missing in what could be a behemoth staple in the future of theatre.
New York, New York: A New Musical’s two leads do their best to keep the mess of a script together, solely with their individual charm and incomparable chemistry. The story is clichéd, like a film many will have seen before: Jimmy Doyle (Colton Ryan) is an Irish musician who lives by the philosophy of music, money and love; he falls head-over-heels for bright-eyed wannabe singer Francine Evans (Anna Uzele). Their whirlwind romance meets trials in every corner, from Jimmy’s haphazard and drunken behaviour to Francine’s own battle with being a Black singer in 1940s America; it’s that divide of a man so in love with a woman but unable to bear her success in the midst of his own shortcomings.
Ryan is a natural performer and he is absolutely mesmerising from the moment he steps onto the stage. However, talented as he is, his vocal performance is heavily dwarfed by the sheer power of Uzele’s, especially in duet sequences between the two. In context, it works, because Francine is supposed to be the singer of the two. One other frustrating aspect of the musical is its forceful tackling of many different subject matters, from racism, depression and abuse to references to LGBTQ+ issues. It’s another case of trying to do so much that it becomes counterproductive: not enough focus is given to a single story. While it’s understandable that a musical dubbed as a “love letter to New York” would want to represent as many diverse stories as possible, it does so at the expense of decent plot transitions and more in-depth character arcs.
New York, New York: A New Musical is at St James Theatre, New York City from 26th April until 19th November 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the show here: