Saturday, October 24, 2009

Street Lights (The SOB Overview)

Street Lights (The SOB Overview) – American Theatre of Actors (Chernuchin Theatre), New York, New York

How’s this for a hot new musical?

A hip-hop show all about hope that itself is brimming with promise. That’s the effusive charm of Joe Drymala’s Street Lights.

Overflowing with more substantive radio-ready tunes per show than any recent musical in memory, his infectious score is beyond exciting. With a potent mix of pop, R&B, hip-hop and rap, each song is like tapping into a forbidden power source with most providing an unexpected surge of electrifying empowerment. It doesn’t matter that I can’t get the tunes out of my head -- I don’t want to.

For the sake of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), Drymala has clearly focused maximum energy on developing a megawatt score, and it shows. That attention comes at the expense of his book, which still needs some work in order to flow seamlessly. Nevertheless, the themes -- centering on Harlem high school students, including two gifted young siblings with the requisite faith they need to make something of their lives -- radiate enormous potential for the future life of this show.

More than realizing her potential is the self-assured Carla Duren, delivering a heart-shattering performance as Monique Willis. As a vocal powerhouse, Duren is remarkably believable as an immensely talented young singer yearning to be the next Alicia Keys.

Same goes for the magnetic Kevin Curtis as her brother Rocky, a high school senior who has his eyes on becoming the next Thurgood Marshall. His ebullient joy upon learning he’s been accepted into Georgetown is about as close as this show comes to a true show-stopping hit. Curtis’ “yes we can” enthusiasm is downright contagious.

But hope as Monique and Rocky might, their dreams risk being jeopardized by their individual associations with a charismatic drug dealer named Damon Cruz, portrayed by the mesmerizing Miguel Jarquin-Moreland. Monique and Rocky learn just how dangerous it can be to play with fire.

Street Lights unabashedly and unapologetically wears its progressive politics transparently on its sleeve -- so much so that it often veers close to becoming overly preachy and even heavy-handed. You can chalk Drymala’s wild-eyed yet earnest passion for activism up to his experience as primary speechwriter for former Democrat National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. That explains the few gratuitous digs at the former president. Regardless of one’s politics, there’s an admirable, if slightly naïve, call to action to overcome any obstacle, no matter how formidable.

While the Ryan J. Davis-helmed Street Lights has already concluded its brief NYMF run, these lights won’t dim completely. With San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre already picking up the show for a Left Coast production, I expect to hear eventual raves on how a much further developed and tightened Street Lights is shining brighter than ever and keeping hope alive for a return engagement in New York.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 26 October, 2009, Blogger Just Fun said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 26 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Tuhin, your advertising is disguised as a comment. Read #4 in the ground rules and you'll see that they are not tolerated.


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