The bad news about a show built to let all 15 cast members shine is that it ends up tantalizing us. One of the swells, Mr. S (J.D. Webster), is so shamelessly chipper in articulating the unbreachable social divide between his kind and the lower classes, in “Isn’t That Clear,” that I instantly wanted to see more of him.
Ditto Carmen Ruby Floyd, as Miss I, who unleashes an astonishing voice in “A Flower,” and Marcy Harriell, as Miss U, who demolishes the furious torch song “Capricious and Fickle.”
Soara-Joye Ross, as Miss O, is all quicksilver dexterity in “The Moment Has Passed,” which begins as a fond remembrance of a lover: “He said he would kill for me. And I said, ‘Like, for instance who?’ And he said, ‘Like, for instance you.’” We laugh right until the moment when it sets off our alarms.
As the Servant (the role Madeline Kahn played in 1969), Bryonha Marie Parham holds back more on the humor than she might, so the force of her satire in “Crown Me” comes as a welcome surprise. So does the tenderness of the bond that the Mother (Saundra Santiago), a plaintive figure, forges with 105 and 106.
Carmines died in 2005, Fornés in 2018, and their show feels very much of its time. It seems significant that Marc Blitzstein’s Depression-era, pro-labor musical “The Cradle Will Rock” got a lauded revival shortly before “Promenade” was born.
But “Promenade” also deals in universals, some of which are especially resonant: the petulant dimwit of a Mayor (Becca Blackwell), for example, who threatens his guests with jail if they don’t admire him. As he examines them for submissiveness in “The Laughing Song,” their chorus of forced jollity sounds like a human calliope.
It’s the prisoners, though, who get the last word in “Promenade,” with the ravishing mournfulness of “All Is Well in the City.” All is not well, of course. They huddle together, 105 and 106, and you can see in their somber eyes that they’re not dreaming anymore.
Through July 11 at New York City Center, Manhattan; 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes.