« Jewish and Arab Israeli singers join in song. | Main | NBC show has an a cappella special. »

December 22, 2004

Doo Wop musical "Avenue X" a hit in Vienna

Financial Times (UK):

To hell with Johann Strauss: Avenue X is the show to see in Vienna this holiday season. Ray Leslee's a cappella musical is having its European premiere at the Kammeroper, and you will not find a more emotional theatrical experience or finer singing in this city. Set in 1963 Brooklyn, Avenue X traces the lives of two families on the street which separates a new housing complex inhabited mostly by Afro-Americans from an old Italo-American neighbourhood (hot-headed, bigoted Chuck recalls, "Old lady Tedeschi lay down in front of the bulldozer" when the buildings were being erected).

Despite palpable racial tensions, two confused young men, Pasquale and Milton, discover a common dream of fleeing the neighbourhood and a possible means of escape through a doo-wop singing contest. In the daily struggle for survival, we also meet Milton's mother, proud of getting her boy out of Harlem ("You'd either be dead or in jail") but who takes a bus to a black neighbourhood to shop for groceries; her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend; Afrocentric Winston, eager to embrace Malcolm X without quite understanding why; Pasquale's drug-addict sister, who sports heels two inches too high and a skirt two sizes too small; and well-meaning goombah Ubazz.

The Italians' music is too stale; the blacks' gospel hymns are hackneyed. Pasquale and Milton realise they need each other to create a new kind of harmony musical as well as racial and collaborate on the moving "Where Is Love?" But tragedy obliterates hope, and at the gripping conclusion, the divide across the avenue is even deeper. Ramin Dustdar and Gino Emnes entwine their voices in intricate bel canto riffs as Pasquale and Milton. Carole Alston-Bukowsky rocks the house with the gospel-infused "You Got To Go There," showing a voice as dark and sweet as molasses. Joe Garcia's obsidian bass sounds like he is taking a holiday from the State Opera. John Jiler's clever, witty book and lyrics can be manipulative, but in all the right ways. Bring Kleenex.

Posted by acapnews at December 22, 2004 12:21 AM