The MBTA Arrives ... on Stage
By Michelle Liu
June 14, 2012
BOSTON — Bostonians may curse the many troubles of the MBTA, but they love to hate it. Now there’s a musical that many of us (well, those who ride the MBTA) can relate to — from the Boston sports fans who crowd the T after games, to the tourists trying to make sense of subway maps, to the college students out for a night of partying. Born out of ImprovBoston, “T: An MBTA Musical” has moved to the Club Oberon stage in Cambridge through July 13.
Melissa Carubia, lyricist and music director of the show, said the inspiration behind the musical was simply because the T is an active part of the Boston lifestyle.
“The T is kind of like one of those things in Boston that you can’t imagine life without. It’s like the Red Sox,” said Carubia. “When it’s bad, everybody loves to complain about it, it’s on everybody’s mind. And when it’s good, it’s just a part of the fabric of our city that we sometimes take for granted.”
The musical started out as a 6-minute sketch for political sketch group Mosaic and ended up becoming a full-blown musical, filled with characters like “Charlie” (as in Charlie Card), “party girls” and “bros.”
Jeffrey Mosser, director, came aboard the project after Carubia and writer Michael Manship approached him. After he read the script and listened to the songs, Mosser was immediately interested.
“I saw this as an event more than a theater piece. It was so exciting and so fun,” said Mosser.
The relatable stories are what make the musical an event. By doing research on the T lines, Carubia found stories and inspiration for the characters in the musical.
“I looked up the opinions of what people thought the characters of each line were. That crowdsourcing through Yelp, through Facebook helped me build a show that resonated with everybody,” Carubia said.
And for the most part, Mosser said since a lot of people have their own T story, the show really does appeal to everyone.
“The most important part of this story that I can tell you is it isn’t malicious toward the MBTA,” Mosser said. “It’s to tell all of our stories, it’s towards all of our audiences who all have a story about the train ... if you have your own T story, that’s the audience we have, that’s the audience we’re looking for.”
Even officials from the MBTA came out to have a look.
“At our first incarnation of the show, Richard Davey did come to see the show. He loved it; he was blown away by it,” Mosser said.
“He posed for pictures with the cast afterwards and got a CD. It was great,” Carubia said.
One of the main goals of the show is to make the audience feel like they are actually riding the T.
“We try to make sure that it feels like you’re on a big red train at 5 in the afternoon,” Mosser said. “We have seating right on the T, where actors are dancing right in front of you, immediately in front of you, so you feel like you’re sitting right on the train.”
And the most ironic aspect of this show is when it’s over, it’s too late to take the T home.
“That’s one of the conflicts of our show, too. One of our characters couldn’t get home,” Mosser said. “We chose this time slot full knowing that this might be the result. That just shows us the world we’re living in … the slice of life!”
WGBH NEWS FOCUS: THE MBTA
About WGBH News Focus: The MBTALove it, like it or lump it, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority touches nearly everyone's lives in eastern Mass. And it's in financial crisis, with newly announced fare hikes not enough to cover next year's projected $100 million budget deficit. WGBH News features special focus coverage of the tracks and troubles of our public transit system.
"If I Ran the T ..."
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The Fare and Service Plan
On July 1, the T will introduce fare increases and service cuts to cover a $159 million budget gap for the next fiscal year. Read the plan on mbta.com.