The naif in New York, suitcase in hand, is as old as musicals themselves.
It happens again in Eric Tipler’s Capital Fringe offering “One Night in New York!” at the Gala Theatre.
The difference this time is the young Iowan arriving at the big city doesn’t seek stardom: He only wants a hookup for the night, which sets the aims of this modest entertainment a little low.
As the young man, Paul Luckenbauh combines gumption and naivete, with a strong singing voice. He arrives in an all singing, all dancing (and all male) New York of tourists, construction workers, the Statue of Liberty, the Naked Cowboy and the fake Elmo in the promising opening song, before the play takes some tired turns, with a fairy godmother in drag granting three wishes.
Worse, Tipler runs out of songs. After a mannered introduction to the preppy snobs in “The Chelsea Gavotte,” the play is songless for a long time, until its one strong ballad, “Normal,” is followed by two songs that don’t rise much above their subject matter, “a tragic gay bar” (in “The Dregs”) and a popular hookup app (“The Grindr Shuffle”).
Director/choreographer Craig Cipollini has amassed a talented cast who handle the ensemble dances with aplomb and a couple of standout flourishes.
Ryan Patrick Welch, who towers over Luckenbaugh and most of the rest of the cast in the heels of the drag godmother (who goes by a cruder name) is a striking presence with great comic instinct.
But doing as much in advising the young visitor are a couple of particularly twee Tweedledum & Tweedledees played by Pasquale Guiduci and Peyton Lynch.
It may be tough for straight crowds to discern the degrees of different gay bars (one of which seemed costumed by the Village People).
But for the gay community, this is a modest musical to cheer (and cheer they did on preview), laughing hardest at inside jokes about the activist HRC, the Human Rights Campaign.
What’s missing from “One Night in New York!,” a work billed as “Gayer than ‘Cats’!” is not the sex, though, it’s the songs.
Catlin is a freelance writer.
by Eric Tipler. Through July 27 at Capital Fringe. Visit www.capfringe.org.