Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt


Let's review the gentrification of Brooklyn: ten years ago, the Gowanus Asteroid landed in Prospect Park, imbuing a group of passersby with awesome superpowers. This band of heroes, calling themselves the League of Victory, now spend their days putting out subway fires, stopping muggers, and generally keeping Brooklyn safe for vegan bakeries and bicycle collectives.

That, anyway, is the version put forward by the new musical "Brooklynite," which recently opened Off Broadway. The show is the rare musical based on a store. ("Walmartopia," a Fringe Festival hit in 2006, is another.) Its inspiration is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, which opened in Park Slope eleven years ago and specializes in capes, masks, ray guns, invisibility coating, and other crime-fighting accoutrements. Behind a secret moving wall--designed to elicit "whoa"s--is a spacious after-school student center run by 826NYC, part of Dave Eggers's tutoring and writing initiative. When the theatre producer Amanda Lipitz first saw the hidden-door reveal, she said recently, "It sang."

Lipitz and the producer Margo Lion brought the idea to the married novelists Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, and hired Michael Mayer, the director of "Spring Awakening" and "Hed wig and the Angry Inch." The problem: "You can't write a show about a place," Mayer said the other day, visiting the store before a preview. Their first draft was about the tutoring program, until Waldman concluded that it was too "spinachy." ("No one wants to see a musical about tutors," Mayer said.) So they scrapped the idea and invented a Brooklyn inhabited by superheroes, including Captain Clear (invisibility), Kid Comet (speed), Astrolass (flight), and Avenging Angelo, endowed with a superhuman ability to find a parking space. Eventually, the team brought on the songwriter Peter Lerman, and Chabon and Waldman got sidetracked with other projects. In his staging, Mayer lifted elements of the shop, including utility belts, secret-identity glasses ("I'm a spectacles whore"), and immortality in a can.

"Where's antimatter?" he said, scanning the shelves.

"We might be out," Joshua Mandelbaum, 826NYC's executive director, said. Mayer had just demonstrated the Cape Tester, a platform rigged with fans that create a billowing effect, while reciting the official vow of heroism: "Ever vigilant, ever true. …

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