The first revolutionary breakthrough in The Capeman comes even before curtain up: the standard announcement about not taking photographs or using sound recording devices is delivered in English—and then repeated in Spanish. All around the Marquis Theatre, the audience applauds approvingly; many of them cheer deliriously; some of them have, apparently, never been more ecstatically happy in their lives.

And then the curtain rises, and the cheers die down, and they never really come back. The producers of the first purpose-built Broadway musical by a bona fide baby-boom rock star must wonder why they didn’t quit while they were ahead. What happens in the next two and a half hours is a tragedy—and I don’t mean the story of Sal “The Capeman” Agron, a poor fatherless kid from Puerto Rico growing up an outsider in the seething tenements of 1950s New York, a confused boy who starts running with the gang...

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