The Poor of New York at the Metropolitan Playhouse has it all—great acting, costumes, direction, lighting as well as staging.
Set in 1837, New York is having a run on many of the banks in New York City. Like another show done in the early 1990s at Metropolitan Playhouse, An American Clock, The Poor of New York shows us a tale of what will become of a very bad situation. Some will thrive in these bad times, others will be wiped out.
During the 20 year duration of this show, we watch people struggle to survive, we watch some thrive. The audience is torn between people living in squalor and others getting rich beyond their wildest dreams. Many wealthy people lose everything and come to the realization that they are now poor.
The plots premise is based on what a father will do for his children. In the case of Gideon Bloodgood ( Bob Mackasek), it is robbing the Fairweather's of their life savings, so that his daughter can live a good life. Bloodgood knows that his bank is in default and that this money will change his life for the betterment of both he and his daughter, Alida.
Written by Dion Boucicaut, an Irish playwright, The Poor of New York was performed by The Metropolitan Playhouse at its old location on West 49th street in the late 1990s.
In a small theater, good direction and lighting is a must. Alex Roe keeps this show tight. Actors move freely and smartly throughout the economical stage with great timing and as such, the musical blends and works beautifully for the entire two hours and 15 minutes.
The romantic lighting gives the audience members a feel that they are part of this great performance. Christopher Weston's lighting is the back beat of evening. From the somber moments to the pinnacle of the burning building, Westons deft lighting keeps the show front and center at all times
Sidney Fortner's costume design captures this period piece. From the aristocratic fashion of the Bloodgoods, to the poverty striken Fairweathers. Fortner is masterful in the very detail of the haves and have nots. Specific detail went into Badger (David Logan Rankin's), once more fortunate standing in society, to poverty striken attire.
The staging of this show was refreshingly different. Like the show itself, the stage kept moving round and round, much like the characters lives. The stage was significant of time; things changed, people changed and the wheel kept turning and with it, the story of the characters who encumbered the audience.
All the actors were very strong in their roles. Each character was touching to us. From the Bloodgoods who were never accepted in a society that they desperately wanted to belong. Mark Livingston who lost all his wealth and status in his community or the Fairweather's who were robbed of there place and entitlement to be a family.
Many plays and musicals have been written about this era. The Metropolitan Playhouse captures the despair, the hopelessness of this period with a great nuance. The blend of direction, lighting and particularity to costumes make this musical a true art form.
The Metropolitan Playhouse has been putting on classic plays since the early 90s and continues to do so today. Always a class theater group, Metropolitan chooses its show carefully. Metropolitan Playhouse is as meaningful today at East 4th Street as it was back in the 90s when it's performances were at the Visual Arts High School on West 49th St.