On December 11, 2016, four friends watched their original musical—Broadway’s first a cappella musical—open at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Oscar-winning songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth and their In Transit have come a long way since its early stages.
The writing quartet developed In Transit at the Eugene O’Neill’s National Music Theater Conference in Connecticut in July 2008. It was their first project as a four-person writing team, and each makes their Broadway debut with the production.
Anderson-Lopez credits the O’Neill experience for her team’s ability to find the DNA of the show. “Everyone talks about the magic of the O'Neill,” she says. “The magic is somebody feeds you, you never have to worry about food. You're given a room and a piano, if you're doing musicals, and you're given a place to sleep. And you're given time, just time, away from New York, away from your children and your busy lives, away from all of that stuff, and there is a superpower focus that you get at the O'Neill. This really is a superpower. It's the only way these musicals with so many people can get done.”
At the time, the musical “got done” under the direction of Joe Calarco and music direction of W. Brent Sawyer. In 2010, In Transit opened Off-Broadway at 59E59 and won the 2011 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble, the 2011 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the 2011 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.
Today, Tony winner Kathleen Marshall mounted the musical, starring David Abeles, Moya Angela, Steven "HeaveN" Cantor, Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, Erin Mackey, Gerianne Perez, Margo Seibert, James Snyder, Mariand Torres, and Nicholas Ward.
“[It’s] such an incredible gift to wake up every day and have 16 of the most talented people in New York creating your music,” says Anderson-Lopez.
The musical chronicles the stories of 11 young New Yorkers discovering their own identities among the pitfalls and roadblocks of the urban jungle. In many ways, the show is autobiographical, and no doubt the struggles and triumphs of the four writers over the eight-year development period have seeped into the musical—something the creative team will discuss during their panel at Broadway Con 2017. Until then, audiences can enjoy the show that highlights the beauty in “getting there,” just as much as the arrival.