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December 16, 2006

Quintet will again make sweet music at home

Orlando Sentinel (FL):

It has been almost two years since Toxic Audio took its high-energy a cappella act to New York, for an off-Broadway run that might better position this Orlando-based vocal group for world domination. Or at least a shot at being the next Blue Man Group.

"The plan is being executed slowly, but it's maybe not world domination as much as world exposure," says Toxins frontman and baritone Jeremy James, who performs with wife, alto Shalisa James, scat-singing soprano Michelle Mailhot-Valines, tenor Paul Sperrazza and bass Rene Ruiz. "We've had many opportunities to travel around the nation and around the globe."

This month, Toxic Audio will be in Mexico before it closes the year with shows Dec. 29 and 30 at the Helen Stairs Theatre in Sanford. The singers, along with technical director John Valines III, also traveled to Japan this past winter.

Isn't there a language barrier for a show that relies solely on voices? Not really, James says. "Our show, because it's based on the human voice, is perfect because music is the international language," he says. "And many of our pieces rely on facial expressions and body language, which is universal. There's also a lot of scat and jazz in numbers that translate well. It kills in any language."

The difference between a Toxic Audio show and the a cappella styles of say, Bobby McFerrin or Manhattan Transfer, is the Toxins' willingness to embrace the theatrical and downright silly. A familiar routine is Sperrazza's version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," sung as if his voice is being sped-up and slowed-down by an out-of-control turntable.

Toxic Audio also slips MTV-era songs into the mix, everything from Michael Jackson material to Thomas Dolby's 1980 hit "She Blinded Me With Science." The singers who first came together as Toxic Audio for the Fringe Festival in 1998, are always looking for new tunes.

Recent additions include the Rascal Flatts song "Broken Road," adapted during a swing through Texas. Often, arrangements are rehearsed by e-mail and digital audio files, because Sperrazza and Ruiz now live in Las Vegas and Manhattan, respectively. "Where we live doesn't matter," James says, "because we're on the road so much." Even so, James considers the Sanford shows "a holiday homecoming" for the group, which still has its sights set on the world.

Posted by acapnews at December 16, 2006 12:23 AM