Reviewed by Judy Richter
Musical theater fans who don't get to see the touring production of "Brooklyn the Musical" during its five-day stopover with American Musical Theatre of San Jose don't have to kick themselves for missing out. Although the show is mildly interesting and has some intriguing design elements. it's hardly a classic. With book, music and lyrics by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson, this 2003 work, which played on Broadway, tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a pop singer while searching for the father who left before she was born. The story is told as a fairy tale enacted by five gritty street performers in front of a gutted brick building beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
The show has some star power with Tony winners Cleavant Derricks as Streetsinger, who befriends and guides the young woman, and Melba Moore as Paradice (she stresses the correctness of this spelling), an aging pop/rock/gospel diva who becomes the young woman's nemesis and tries to sabotage her quests. The young woman, Brooklyn, is played by Diana DeGarmo, who was the runner-up on TV's "American Idol" in 2004. Ably supporting them are Lee Morgan as Taylor, Brooklyn's father; and Julie Reiber as Faith, her mother. All five take on other roles throughout the show, which runs without intermission. They're backed by three offstage singers, Mark Luna, Jenelle Lynn Randall and Lonna Marie Spitaleri.
Inventively directed by Jeff Calhoun, with John McDaniel overseeing the music, the show takes place on what might be called a low-rent "Rent" set (by Ray Klausen with lighting by Michael Gilliam) strewn with trash that the street troupe uses for props. The performers also serve as an on-stage stage crew, moving set pieces and props as the action advances. Trash also is incorporated into Tobin Ost's costume designs, most notably the outfits worn by Paradice and Brooklyn in their musical showdown. Paradice's is made of black trash bags, duct tape, yellow caution tape and bubble wrap, while Brooklyn appears in a creation of plastic shopping bags.
The plot is fairly straightforward, but thin, but the songs have a sameness, as does their delivery. With Duncan Robert Edwards' sound amped up to painful levels, most of the songs and singing tend to start at a fairly normal decibel level, then crescendo into screaming. Some might call it belting, but it lacks control and finesse.
We can only hope that the 21st century will produce more memorable musicals than this.