‘T: An MBTA musical’ finally takes off | Arts

Inside a T station, almost anything goes: shirtless men jumping from subway poles, angry evangelical preachers handing out leaflets, intoxicated students holding various bodily fluids at the desk. times, people risking their lives to sprint on the tracks just to make their daily commutes. the weather and, of course, the rats. For a storyteller craving for inspiration, Boston’s public transportation system is therefore a setting of almost endless possibilities that grants any writer a powerful artistic license.

As such, “T: An MBTA Musical,” which takes place every first and third Friday through December at the Rockwell, is based on a golden premise. Staged just steps from the Davis Square T stop, the wacky and spirited show follows three young people in their twenties navigating the maddening inconveniences of the MBTA and teaming up to bring down the institution from within, a journey featured as “part love story, part melodrama, part treasure hunt – but mostly underground. Sadly, despite its potential and the abundance of energy from its cast and band, the end product fails. to achieve three out of four of these key descriptors (although it is, admittedly, staged underground in the basement of the Rockwell.) Even in a place as surreal and unpredictable as the T – the ultimate garter belt of disbelief – the plot veers in confusing, and often unnecessarily sexual, directions Despite their best efforts, the comedians’ enthusiasm fails to get it back on track.

The three protagonists of the musical, Alice, John, and Michelle, all had personal vendettas against the cursed MBTA when they stumble upon a mysterious treasure map that could lead to the transportation authority’s darkest secrets. Their mad dash across various T-lines to escape the MBTA cops doubles as a metaphorical journey of self-discovery, even as the details of the narrative become more contrived and off-putting. Alice, for example, comes from a long line of MBTA criminals who have a habit of hitting T-workers, a strange family heirloom she tries to escape. With an incredibly minimal set of painted chairs and panels, the actors’ performances as they run around the theater and interact with the crowd, along with the sound cues of the familiar subway noises and sound system, go a long way in summoning the claustrophobia, frenetic vibrations of T. A special shout goes to the whole show, who seemed to experience unforgettable moments every time they were on stage, and to composer Melissa Carubia for a score full of serious verse. ear and incredibly complex melodies.

At its best, the show reads like a love letter to the Boston area, celebrating the chaos but also the undeniable charm of many of its iconic subway stations. The scene set at the Kenmore stop, where the trio meet a crowd of drunk and loud Bostonians fresh out of Fenway Park, for example, strikes the perfect balance between this affection and mockery of the city’s culture. Even though the characters’ motivations for embarking on their underground treasure hunt are obscure and the outcome ultimately unsatisfactory, the clues and puzzles they uncover along the way help to pique the audience’s interest and keep them engaged.

In many ways, the T and its authorities are the perfect antagonists: who doesn’t like to complain about the huge deadlines, sometimes rude employees, and constant construction that haunts Boston transit? The animosity, however, is not aimed at the bureaucrats or government officials who leave the Western Hemisphere’s oldest subway system poorly funded and run down, but rather the MBTA workers themselves, to such an extent that we often have the impression that writers are punchy. Yes, taking the T often sucks, but basically every MBTA employee featured on the show is either a total buffoon, blundering like one of the Three Stooges, or a vindictive monster to get passengers out, like a taxi driver. bus resembling a banshee. . At the end, in a moment of sudden awareness, the three protagonists realize that they really should take responsibility for their personal issues, rather than treating the T workers as the ultimate scapegoat. Yet their last-minute revelation that “we are all Ts” does not counterbalance all the insults leveled at the employees who have to put up with the nonsense of Michelle, Alice and John on a daily basis.

Equally disappointing is Michelle’s handling of the character and her clenched “romance” with John, the frat-boy with a secret “heart of gold”. Self-proclaimed “Queen of the One Night Stands,” Michelle tries to distance herself from her promiscuous image while constantly navigating the wandering eyes of scary men, including the supposed “good guy” John. At the start of the show, Michelle refuses to show an embarrassing, possibly explicit, video of her film, at the expense of John’s insistent and pushy annoyance. In a complete invasion of privacy, he steals her phone only to discover that the video is actually her doing a comedy, a side of her personality that she tried to suppress. Still, the public is supposed to continue to root for this disgusting relationship.

There are probably few places less erotic than a dingy subway car, probably covered in urine and almost every bacterial strain known to mankind. Still, it looks like the characters all swallowed a dozen oysters each before boarding a T-car filled with a continuous supply of pheromones, given how provocative the storyline gets at the end. At the climax (no pun intended) of the performance, the three protagonists literally have a threesome in the subway car while singing about the need to “reunite”, all as a desperate act of retaliation against the MBTA who keep on “killing them. If that sounds completely heavy and out of left field in this review, it was even more mind-boggling and confusing in the actual context of the show.”

That being said, it’s hard to deny the entertaining value of this crazy musical. It’s the type of performance that really needs to be seen to be believed. There was never a dull moment in this adventure, especially during the catchy, choreographed group acts. However, just like a street musician in a subway station singing very loud and out of tune, “T: An MBTA Musical” was often breathtaking and hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

– Editor Samantha J. O’Connell can be contacted at sam.o’[email protected]


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