First performed at Off-Broadway’s Irish Repertory Theater in 2002, the day after 9/11, The streets of New York is back on stage until the end of January in the company’s current pandemic-era revival. Based on the 1857 melodrama New York’s Poor by Irish playwright and actor Dion Boucicault, the adaptation, songs and direction by Irish representative artistic director Charlotte Moore capture the emotional elements and heartfelt message inherent in the original story about the impact of the 19andfinancial crises of the last century about the haves and the have-nots, as well as the comedic aspects of its dastardly and heroic characters, for an increasingly engaging and thunderous musical melodrama with a moral.
Beginning with the Panic of 1837, when bank failures sparked an economic depression that lasted well into the 1840s, the prologue opens with a deplorable array of New York characters performing Moore’s brooding, tearful title song in a dark and gloomy storm under umbrellas filled with holes. , in front of the revealing backdrop of a monumental $100 bill. The narrative then changes location and tone to the bright, colorful and well-appointed office of the ridiculously rich and infamous banker Gideon Bloodgood, who is planning an escape to London with all his depositors’ money. Add to that the $100,000 Captain Patrick Fairweather just brought her after hours, unwittingly intended as a safe investment to support her family during the collapse.
But the money is instead embezzled by the corrupt Bloodgood after being recorded by his clerk Brendan Badger, who, when the sailor conveniently drops dead in front of them, keeps the receipt to blackmail his boss. Their criminal acts set off an extremely tangled chain of events and family interconnections in Acts I and II, set 20 years in the future during the Panic of 1857, pitting rich against poor and dishonest against honorable, until all riotous actions and more – the superior plot is exposed and finally solved through the overwhelming power of love and good.
The entertaining cast delivers the driving themes of the excess of wealth, the trauma of poverty, the endurance of love and the saving grace of generosity with the requisite sincere commitment and over-the-top humor befitting the Victorian style. the formidable David Hess as Bloodgood and Justin Keyes as Badger, whose song-and-dance number “Villains” (with lively vaudevillian-style choreography by Barry McNabb) provides one of the laughs, so does Amanda Jane Cooper’s performance of “Oh, How I Love Being Rich,” as the rapacious role of Bloodgood’s spoiled, titled, demanding, and manipulative daughter Alida (which signals the show’s comedic content).
In their faithful portrayals of Lucy Fairweather (Patrick’s now impoverished and self-sacrificing daughter) and honest gentleman Mark Livingstone (who share an attraction thwarted by Alida’s intention to make her father l ‘buys for her to marry), DeLaney Westfall and Ben Jacoby bring an expressive mood of noble sensibility and straightforwardness to their characters. And their remarkable semi-operatic duets on “We Must Never Say Goodbye”, “I Never Told You that I Loved You”, “Where Is Spring?” and “Poor Wounded Heart”, are among the vocal highlights of the show (accompanied by Melanie Mason on cello, Jeremy Clayton on woodwinds, Karen Lindquist on harp, Sean Murphy on bass and Joel Lambdin on violin, with musical direction, arrangements and co-orchestration by Mark Hartman, and Yasuhiko Fukuoka as associate conductor and co-orchestrator)
Amy Bodnar, Kerry Conte, Richard Henry, Daniel J. Maldonado, Polly McKie, Ryan Vona and Price Waldman (subtly notable as Bloodgood’s servant Edwards) round out the fine ensemble. Their performances are supported by period and class-appropriate costumes by Linda Fisher, hair and wigs by Robert-Charles Vallance, and props by Deirdre Brennan. Hugh Landwehr’s setting cleverly evokes the story’s era and its focus on money or lack thereof, and Michael Gottlieb’s lighting and Mr. Florian Staab’s sound contribute effectively to the characters’ status and predicament. .
The streets of New York not only amuses with its combination of old-school melodrama, spoof comedy and emotive music, but also leaves us with the ever-resonating reminder that those among the wealthiest in society should “take your brother’s hand” and give to the poor, not exploit them.
Duration: Approximately 2h15, intermission included.
The streets of New York until Sunday, January 30, 2022 at the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22n/a Street, New York. For tickets (priced at $45-70), call (212) 727-2737 or drop by in line. Everyone must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination and valid photo ID to enter the building and must wear a properly fitted mask covering nose and mouth while inside.
If you can’t get to The streets of New York, you can watch Irish Rep’s excellent series of digital productions created during the pandemic shutdown, on screen and on demand on the company’s website [email protected] Platform. Offering works by James Joyce, Conor McPherson, Geraldine Hughes, Eugene O’Neill, JM Synge, Elaine Murphy, and more, rentals are $25 per show with access for 48 hours from the time you click “watch now” on the production page.