‘In Transit’ review: Broadway’s first a cappella musical falls short

What’s the appeal of a musical set on and around the New York City subway system? Don’t we all spend enough time on the subway each and every day? Who wants to spend even more time staring at a gritty-looking train platform, being reminded of the delays, overcrowding and countless other frustrations there?

“In Transit,” an original musical depicting a variety of ordinary New Yorkers who take the subway while in pursuit of their various goals, marks Broadway’s first a cappella musical – and the results aren’t so great, in spite of the meticulous vocal engineering.

A cappella performance has grown more popular in recent years thanks to “Glee” (remember the Dalton Academy Warblers?) and of course “Pitch Perfect,” but “In Transit” actually predates all that. It has been in development for years and even received an Off-Broadway production 2010.

I had originally assumed that “In Transit” would revolve around a bunch of people who get stuck together on a broken down subway and are forced to make nice. Thankfully, that was not the case.

Instead, we follow a handful of young protagonists including an engaged gay couple (Justin Guarini and Telly Leung), an aspiring actress (Margo Seibert), a former Wall Street exec (James Snyder) and a young woman (Erin Mackey) recovering from a traumatic breakup. They frequently run into a friendly subway musician (Steven “Heaven” Cantor) who offers calming advice and a percussive beat.

At the climax, they declare that the start-and-stop nature of life resembles the start-and-stop movement of the subway train, which is conveyed here via a treadmill that stretches across the stage.

The show (which has music, lyrics and book from four different writers) is well-meant, but the premise is corny and the characters are generic. The pop score is notable only because it is being performed a cappella.

Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall (who is best known for revivals of old-fashioned musicals) injects the staging with a heavy dose of energy, and the performances are decent, but I still wouldn’t recommend taking the subway to “In Transit.” That being said, I am looking forward to the Staten Island Ferry musical …

“In Transit” plays an open run at Circle in the Square. 235 W. 50th St., intransitbroadway.com.