Right away you have to marvel at what an accomplishment it is to be the first a capella Broadway show. There's certainly a novelty that In Transit carries with it from the outset. However, almost immediately after the show begins and you settle in for the ride, you start to see the holes in the core infrastructure and spot distinct areas where the cars start to go off track.
A capella has definitely had its moment in the spotlight over recent years, thanks to "Pitch Perfect," "Glee," Pentatonix, and other media that have taken what was once only cool on college campuses and has emerged as mainstream entertainment. But when it comes to packaging that musical talent, without the accompaniment, it's not enough to hold together an entire show. Especially one like this one that hopes to make you think differently and to leave with a message about happiness and hope.
It's clear that the creators strived for more than just a 100-minute musical performance. Three different storylines come forth, one about a gay couple where one party struggles to come out to his religious mother, another showcasing the beginnings of a possible relationship between an aspiring actress and a shamed Wall Street broker, and finally a spotlight on a woman who, for lack of a better description, has made a series of bad decisions around life and love. Will any or all of these characters get their acts together? They seem to communicate best with others and to be honest most with themselves through the art of a capella.
The problem is that it's hard to hear them above the music. Then there's Boxman (played by Steven "Heaven" Cantor at the performance I attended) whose fast and impressive beatboxing interludes often come at the cost of unsolicited wisdom and implicit encouragement for listeners to choose a more relaxed, bohemian lifestyle. Maybe he's right, but seated in a Broadway theater, it's hard to take this beatboxer seriously as the moral compass to guide us to the light.
Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall does the best she can with the staging, yet it's not enough to make this show come alive in the way they'd hoped. The train has already left the station.