Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Streets of New York

Last night, I was privileged to attend the first preview of the magnificent revival of The Streets of New York now at Irish Repertory Theatre.

Dion Boucicault originally wrote the play in 1857. He was already famous for penning such comedies as London Assurance and Used Up when he set about adapting a French melodrama called The Poor of Paris by Edouard-Louis-Alexandre Brisbarre and Eugene Nus. He reset the story in New York City and opened it as The Poor of New York at Wallack's Theatre on Broadway.

The action of the play begins during the Panic of 1837, then jumps ahead 20 years to the Panic of 1857, a crisis that was still ongoing when the show opened. This present adaptation, known as The Streets of New York (as most other revivals of the play have been called) includes original songs by director Charlotte Moore that turn it into a full-blown musical. And when did Irish Rep last stage the show? Why, 20 years ago, in 2001!

In a program note by Moore and Irish Rep's producing director, Ciaran O'Reilly, the theatre states that they first did the show in the wake of 9/11, and now faced with the challenge of our present crisis, they "have chosen to meet it head-on and celebrate with music and fun and laughter." None of those things--music, fun, and laughter--are in short supply in the present production, which stars Ben Jacoby as our hero, Mark Livingston, and David Hess as the villainous banker, Gideon Bloodgood.

The production does not shy away from its melodramatic origins. There is even a song called "Villains" with Bloodgood and his accomplice Badger (played magnificently by Justin Keyes) all but twirling their mustaches. Instead of being embarrassed by the over-the-top dramatics, however, the audience eats it up and asks for seconds. When Badger collapsed unconscious right before revealing the location of a vital document, the audience last night burst into applause.

Moore even manages to improve upon the original play with the introduction of Dixie Puffy (played by Jordan Tyson), the pistol-toting daughter of the the beloved bakers in the play who becomes a love-interest for Paul Fairweather, best friend of the hero and brother to the virtuous heroine Lucy Fairweather. Ryan Vona and Delaney Westfall do great jobs as the Fairweather siblings, but Amanda Jane Cooper threatens to steal the show as Alida Bloodgood, the villain's spoiled and scheming daughter.

The production is only playing until January 30th, so get your tickets now!