Review: "The Streets of New York" is a good ol 'melodrama

Nineteenth-century playwright Dion Boucicault made an unusually colorful figure – prodigal, voracious, cavalier. As a successful theatr...


Nineteenth-century playwright Dion Boucicault made an unusually colorful figure – prodigal, voracious, cavalier. As a successful theatrical writer on both sides of the Atlantic, he has made varying fortunes and reliably lost them, while his romantic life was the stuff of drama, and sometimes farce.

One of the first headlines about him in the New York Times, in 1863, was the simple “Dion Boucicault in trouble. “A lawsuit said the married playwright locked himself in an involuntary colonel’s London bedroom during an overnight visit to an actress whose ex-husband was in pursuit of him.

Scandal, Wealth, Scarcity – Boucicault, born in Dublin, knew each of these states from within and was brilliant at weaving them into horribly entertaining melodramas. Two decades ago, Charlotte moore, the artistic director of Irish repertory theater, adapted one of those pieces, “The Poor of New York”, in a sweet and fun confection of a musical, “The Streets of New York”, now enjoying a charmer of a revival on the main stage of the company.

Directed by Moore on a nimble and stylized setting by Hugh Landwehr, it’s a pleasant escape, lasting over two hours, in an almost cartoonish version of old New York, where virtuous struggle and villain flourish. You know in your bones, because it’s melodrama, that a coming for the wicked is inevitable – as soon as a piece of paper, long absent from its rightful owners, reappears.

“The Streets of New York” begins in 1837, on the eve of a financial panic, when villainous banker Gideon Bloodgood (David Hess) is about to flee New York with a fortune and leave his depositors to suffer. the results. Enter Patrick Fairweather (Daniel J. Maldonado), a ship captain eager to entrust his $ 100,000 to Bloodgood. The receipt for this transaction, stolen by Bloodgood’s crafty clerk Brendan Badger (Justin Keyes), is the piece of paper in question.

The plot soon moves forward 20 years to find the Captain’s widow, Susan (Amy Bodnar), and grown children, Lucy (DeLaney Westfall) and Paul (Ryan Vona), in dire straits in a tight economy. But the ruthless Bloodgood and his spoiled-from-cradle daughter Alida (Amanda Jane Cooper, delightfully comedic in the show’s best role), are on the rise.

Romantic desire too. Will hapless handsome descendant Mark Livingston (Ben Jacoby) end up with Lucy, his true love, or will scheming Alida trick him? Will Paul and sniper Dixie Puffy (a formidable Jordan Tyson) – who sings about wanting to ‘hold his hand, touch his skin, kiss his lips, rip his shirt off’ – will they ever understand that their fierce crush is? reciprocal?

Moore injects a lot of playful effervescence into the series’ tension – especially in Alida’s exuberant numbers, “Oh How I Like To Be Rich” and “Bad Boys,” and her dresses dripping with decadence. (Choreography is by Barry McNabb; costumes are by Linda Fisher.)

For the most part, the show skillfully balances dark and light while retaining Boucicault’s social critique of the rich casually crushing the poor. But the ending rocks into molasses with a potential elevation intended for the audience, who feel out of step with the rest.

This is a minor point, however, in a production that is otherwise wonderfully done. With a beautiful aural depth provided by an orchestra of cello, woodwinds, harp, bass and violin (conducted, during the performance I saw, by Ed Goldschneider), this is an old-fashioned genre, which makes you forget things. show.

Take your vaccination card, put on a good mask and go.

The streets of New York
Until January 30 at the Irish Repertory Theater, Manhattan; irishrep.org. Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes.

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