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In Davis Square, a musical about resentful MBTA riders is back in service

In "T: An MBTA Musical," three 20-somethings must get the best of the dreaded public transportation system.Courtesy of Mike Manship

For the first time since 2016, “T: An MBTA Musical” is pulling into the station.

The celebrated show, which was first mounted at ImprovBoston a decade ago, opens Friday at The Rockwell in Davis Square, and will play every first and third Friday of the month through Dec. 17. The two-act show centers on three resentful, 20-something riders for whom the T is the bane of their existence. They must use clues to navigate an ancient map of the system — with some help from the audience — in a quest to stop the T’s relentless inconveniences once and for all.


“It’s a little bit like a ‘Wizard of Oz,’ finding yourself on a journey, except instead of the yellow brick road, you have the Red Line, the Green Line, and the Orange Line,” said Melissa Carubia, who wrote the music and lyrics.

Only minor changes have been made since the original production, like the names of the bars mentioned in “The Bro Song,” an Irish pub-style song drenched in frattiness, Carubia said.

“A lot of the universal truths about how Boston relates to the T are still true,” she said. “It keeps people apart and puts people together, and those things are a part of our show.”

Minor spoiler, but the show comes to reveal that the General Manager of the Month, played by original cast member Ray O’Hare, has been the nefarious mastermind behind the headaches of the T.

“We’ve made it a melodrama,” said Mike Manship, who wrote the book and is directing the Rockwell staging. “It’s as if the T is doing it on purpose and really is trying to hold people down.”

But, like Dorothy returning to Kansas, “in meeting each other and trying to take down the T, they realize that the ability to fix this problem was actually within them all along,” said Carubia.


“A lot of what happens with the T is a lot of what happens in our own lives — we make things harder for ourselves, we don’t always take the easiest route, just like the T doesn’t always take the easiest route,” she said. “Sometimes we do the roundabout way to get to where we’re going.”

The Rockwell in Davis Square will host "T: An MBTA Musical," the fourth staging of the show since it debuted in 2011. Handout

Carubia devised the show while a student at Boston College regularly taking the B train on the Green Line. She then faced bus transfers when she moved on to a graduate program at the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

“There were literally times when the bus just didn’t come, and I missed a class,” said Carubia, who will guest conduct the three-person band at a few of the Rockwell shows. ”I was on the D Line and a Red Sox game had just got out, and I found that I was in the middle of a pull-up contest on all the bars that people hold onto to steady themselves.”

The show sold out its initial run at ImprovBoston and won the 2011 award for best small/fringe musical from BroadwayWorld.com, voted on by the public. OBERON in Harvard Square hosted a revival of the show in 2012, which by then had expanded to two acts and added several songs, and it was staged again at ImprovBoston in 2016.

As Carubia used her own underground tales of woe and those of her friends to craft the musical, she found no shortage of material — and that hasn’t changed. The MBTA has recently been in the headlines in connection with an escalator malfunction at the Back Bay station, a Green Line trolley crash, and a Red Line derailment at Broadway station.


“There’s serious stuff to uncover here,” said Carubia. “But there’s also a lot of relief that can happen from doing it in a humorous way.”

The show depicts the T as “an adorable bumbling incompetence,” Carubia said. The musical, while meant to appeal to crabby commuters of all stripes, is not meant to vilify the T or its workers. In fact, MBTA employees get a discount at the show.

“In the end we don’t point fingers at the T,” said Manship. “We point fingers at ourselves.”


Music and lyrics by Melissa Carubia. Book and direction by Mike Manship. Presented by The Rockwell, 255 Elm St., Somerville. Every first and third Friday of the month from Oct. 15 to Dec. 17 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $29 or $22.50 for students and MBTA employees (21+ show). 617-628-4445, therockwell.org

Dana Gerber can be reached at dana.gerber@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.