ALONG THE WAY
nytheatre.com review by Terri Galvin
Last time you negotiated Dante's
seventh circle—that putrid, rat-infested inferno also known as the New
York City subway system—were you inspired to jump out of your seat
(assuming you managed to get one) and break into song? Did six other
passengers spontaneously join in glorious, a cappella harmonies
so ethereal that for one moment you imagined that if anything could
deliver you from third-rail hell into paradise (or at least your
scheduled stop), it would be tunes this, … uh, "transporting"?
August 15, 2003
No? Well, what if you raced to the Independent, snarling from yet another MTA snafu, frustrated beyond all human endurance, loathing both this city and all its denizens, only to be entranced by a sweet little New York-themed show called Along the Way?
Using the metaphor of the quintessential underground "journey," this beguiling collection of original songs chronicles the vicissitudes of surviving a city we often love to hate. Through challenges as varied as opening a bank account to impending parenthood, six characters pursue true love, the fulfillment of their dreams, and apartment leases that outlast relationships. Their one common link? Like the rest of us in this "wonderful town," they all ride in a hole in the ground.
Shawn Churchman's staging efficiently transforms settings from a Queens-bound N train to a Broadway casting call and more, and his choreography provides a spirited visual complement to both the musical numbers and their transitions. The framing device of interspersed subway scenes can be tenuous, but what's lacking in narrative continuity is made up for by charm. The performances are earnestly committed, the lyrics knowing and clever, and the harmonies as lush as an instrumental orchestration. If these very virtues leave us longing for a more traditional book, it's a petty quibble given such droll numbers as "No Dental"—in which a quietly seething office temp rages against her plight in reggae-tinged rhythms.
Clearly resonant with a youthful, artistic audience, Along the Way is so engaging that one hopes the ensemble (Kristen Anderson, Greg Christopher, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, Sara Levine, and Karla Momberger; they also wrote the show) will eventually expand its characters beyond the realm of bright, aspiring twenty-somethings. No matter—for now, at least, it's obvious that whatever route these winsome performers take, most FringeNYC-goers will happily go along for the ride.