New York, New York – A New Musical: On the red carpet for the opening on Broadway
The carpet is red and the sun beats hot on the New York City concrete on April 26th, a golden day full of warm-toned posters, shimmering dresses and pastel suits. It’s the grand opening of New York, New York: A New Musical, and the whole production celebrates with flashing camera lights, taxicab photos in place of limousine entrances, and VIP guests of all different kinds – from songwriting royalty such as Alan Menken and theatre veterans including the likes of Jonathan Groff to familiar Hollywood names like Rob Marshall and Victor Garber.
Broadway sets the stage outside St James Theatre at West 44th Street to welcome the cast and production members of this new show. Based on the 1977 Martin Scorsese film starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minelli, this old classic takes on new life, with the musical stylings of John Kander at the helm, the lyrics of Fred Ebb and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and direction and choreography by Susan Stroman. But the true cherry on top of this historic opening – with nine Tony nominations only after its first official week – is the gilded cast, their talent shining across the board.
Colton Ryan, who plays Jimmy Doyle (an Irish musician living by the philosophy of “music, money and love”), formerly covered Ben Platt’s Evan Hansen in the original Broadway cast of Dear Evan Hansen. He later returned to the title as Connor Murphy opposite Platt in the 2021 film. Ryan also received critical acclaim for his performance as Conrad Roy in the true crime series That Girl from Plainville. His co-star is Anna Uzele, playing Francine Evans, a singer braving the bustling and constantly changing world of New York City. Uzele premiered the Broadway role of Catherine Parr from Six: The Musical and recently starred as a series regular in Apple TV’s Dear Edward.
The Upcoming were one of the lucky few invited to the opening of New York, New York: A New Musical on Broadway to meet the cast and discuss the possibility of the show coming to the West End. As it is said to be “a love letter to New York”, it was imperative to ask the cast what Londoners can find in this musical. Many of them referenced the similarities between London and New York, with Leo Moctezuma (ensemble) stating: “For me, London is the New York of the UK.” Ryan also suggested there are very few places like New York, London being one of them: “I think there’s a lot to be gained from knowing more about each other and from the journey it takes to live in both these places.”
Meanwhile, other cast members discussed the themes of the show that can be found in London as well. For Darius A Wright (cover for Jesse Webb), it’s the philosophy of living by music, money and love: “I think that’s something you can have everywhere,” he said. On the other hand, Mike Cefalo (cover for Jimmy Doyle) finds that the bustling metropolis of a big city is a big sell: “The city is its own character, and I think no matter which city you’re from, where you are, you’re going to feel a part of something special.” Giovanni Bonaventura (ensemble) and Kristine Covillo (ensemble) discussed the diversity of places like London and New York, while Wendi Bergamini (ensemble), Akina Akitazawa (dance captain), Uzele and Vanessa Sears (cover for Francine Evans) referred to the dreams people have of making it in the city: “New York is a feeling. It’s energy, it’s excitement, it’s ambition, it’s hustle. I think everyone can relate to that. Everyone who has a dream can understand New York.”
One of the new songs from the musical is Music, Money, Love, which includes the lyric: “I guess the lesson is / You get two but rarely three.” This prompted another big topic of conversion between The Upcoming and the cast: if they could only have two of the three for the rest of their life, which two might they choose? Unsurprisingly, most opted for music and love, calling money something that comes and goes. According to Richard Gatta (dance captain): “Music and love, because if you’ve got those two, you’ll probably get the third – which is money.” Meanwhile, Jeff Williams admitted to having lived without money anyway: “I manage to live without money for a long time because I’m an actor.” The only outliers were Ben Davis (Gordon Kendrick) and Oliver Prose (Alex Mann). Davis referred to his character when choosing “money and love”, while Prose admitted to being “a pragmatic guy” who “would hate to lose music” but must do so in choosing money and love.
Finally, The Upcoming completed its discussion with Uzele by visiting the love story of Jimmy and Francine. She called their relationship “imperfect but real”. When asked how she and Ryan cultivated that chemistry between the two characters, she referenced their real-life romantic relationships: “It’s funny – we didn’t really have to do much to work on it. We both are living out our own individual love stories in real life. He has a beautiful fiancé; I recently got married, and we’re both already in that state of loving love and wanting to tell these stories.” And she was right, because Ryan himself, when asked to choose between music, money or love, admitted that he only needs one: “Love. The other two are just silly in comparison – one reigns a little more supreme.”
Photo: Paul Kolnik
New York, New York: A New Musical is at St James Theatre from 26th April until 19th November 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for New York, New York: A New Musical here: