5 Reasons Why New York, New York is the Finest of Love Letters
By: Iris Wiener
April 28, 2023: New York, New York may feel old in its 1940s set and garb, but it is brand new, telling a story that stands the test of time in an ode to the city that never sleeps. Liberally based on the 1977 Martin Scorsese film starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minelli as musicians turned lovers, the musical showcases some of the songs written for the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb. As for the remain songs, stepping in for Ebb (who passed in 2004) is Lin-Manuel Miranda who is credited with additional lyrics in the new material. Despite a lackluster script from David Thompson and Sharon Washington, and somewhat forgettable music (more than 30 songs abound), the show as a whole holds its own and contains at least five moments that make it worth checking out.
1. Few musicals have an opening moment as unforgettable as the opening scene. The audience is gifted with a teaser few notes of the infamous song “New York, New York,” as an electrician carefully stands on the roof of a city high-rise with the Empire State Building in the distance. He twiddles and tinkers with a neon sign reading “New York, New York” flashing to life with great momentum and excitement. In true New York fashion he says, “Holy shit! I love this city.” The start is extraordinary, and leads into….
2. …one of the greatest opening numbers of all time, thanks largely in part to Donna Zakowska’s thoughtful, intelligent costume design and Susan Stroman’s choreography. “Morning in New York’s sensational ensemble alternates between slow and steady jaunts across the stage, immediately identifiable as going to work, running to auditions, itching for coffee, etc. It’s a true demonstration of a visual story being told through design and dance, and sets the tone for the joy and tribulations soon to come.
3. Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design is extraordinary in its depiction of the city that never sleeps, from the detailed fire escapes and scaffolding flanking the stage (very In the Heights-esque) to the bodega beside a subway stop. The finale in New York, New York boasts a huge set reveal that is one of Broadway’s most delightful, best kept secrets (unless you follow the show on social media…)
4. That subway entrance takes on a life of its own as director Stroman creates a moving, living structure out of it, with a diverse, typical New Yorkian-ensemble “climbing” and “descending” out of a stationery set piece. Superman even emerges, and no one bats an eye (and why would they?). In New York, we have seen it all. This moment is truly a feast of extraordinary theatre.
5. Some of the most powerful moments come in lines about the city. “New York can break you, but it can save you too,” says Tommy Caggiano, (Clyde Alves) as he consoles friend Jimmy Doyle (Colton Ryan). Another gem from Tommy? “Don’t bet against New York.” With a musical like this, who would?