from the archives of: www.newyorkcool.com
Mikal Saint George sits down
sensation, Toxic Audio.
Picture it. I am
six years old walking through lower Manhattan with
my father. I am surrounded by the irate screams
of stoned cab drivers, sober junkies and hot-blooded
transvestite manicurists. There are hippies, halter
top clad women protesting porn and punks -- back
in the day when punk was actually rebellious. It
was grimy, decadent, brimming with life. I look
up at my father and with all of the self assuredness
a worldly six year old could muster think, “You
can go home now, I’ll be fine. You don’t
belong here. Leave me, I’ll be fine but you
get out of here before you get hurt” I never
felt safe until I hit the city streets.
Now, nearly 900
years later, I still fall in love with this town
a bit more each day. No, I do not like being told
where, when or if I can smoke a cigarette (even
though I quit some time ago), I still want to scream
every time someone decides to teach a wobbling
two year old toddler how to walk down stairs at
the subway entrance during rush hour and I have
been known to spend a day and a half trying to
get across town in a cab.
I also saw Guernica
up close at MOMA, made eye-contact with Gorbachov
at the corner of fifth and 57th and have played
(and won!) several drinking games with major rock
stars from Scrap Bar to Squeeze Box to Au Bar.
My point is that as draining as this city can be,
everyday is an opportunity to find something to
justify it. At times, yes, it is like trying to
find hay in a needle stack - but that is part of
the fun of it.
Case in point, and
well worth the trek across the theme park that
has become Times Square to the John Houseman Theatre,
is the astoundingly entertaining Toxic Audio in
Loudmouth. Part performance art / variety / comedy,
part musical theatre, part concert this ensemble
dazzles it’s audience with searing electric
guitars, primal baselines and gut wrenching drum
beats spanning classical, pop, rock and jazz. Oh,
did I mention there are no musical instruments?
Not one. No Steinway, Zidjian, Yamaha or Fender.
Not even a triangle, not so much as a tissue paper
and comb. All of this symphonic majesty is created
using nothing but the human voice.
After seeing the
show three or four times (I have since seen it
twice more!), I was lucky enough to get the opportunity
to sit down with the entire cast as well as the
technical director to discuss the past, present
and future of this high-octane, thoroughly original
production. With less than an hour before curtain,
I sat down with:
James (Performer, Co-Writer) a hunky JFK
Jr. look-a-like. He has a raspy belt that practically
defines 80’s power ballads - look out Bon
James (Performer, Co-Music Director, Arranger)
maybe it is the Ginger Grant red hair, or the
velvety, lush vocals -her cover of Evanescence's
'Bring Me To Life' is breath-taking - or maybe
just the black corset that is part of her David
Brooks designed costume, she commands the stage
with a sweet vampishness.
Mailhot-Valines (Performer, Co-Music Director,
Arranger) She possesses a cherubic beauty that
belies a power-house voice. Surprisingly, she
is off-stage, the quietest of the ensemble.
Ruiz (Performer, Co-Writer, Conceiver,
Director) The definite ringmaster. He has a gift
for stone faced humor. On stage he is reminicent
of a baritone Tim Conway.
Sperrazza (Performer, Co-Writer) is a
scene stealing persona that could only be concieved
by Jim Henson. If Bert and Ernie had a break-dancing,
pop star, martial artist best pal, it would be
A. Valines III (Technical Director, Sound)
The Great Oz behind the velvet curtain!
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION? WHERE DOES SOMETHING
LIKE THIS COME FROM?
kind of comes from two separate sources. One is
my background and interest in theatre and in really
liking shows that don’t follow the norm and
are kind of unique and explore new ideas and new
types of entertainment. So I was seeing a lot of
shows like Blue Man Group and Stomp and Cirque
du Soleil and watching what they were doing with
these art forms that have been around for a really
long time. And finding a way to make them fresh
and unique and visual and all of those things.
That was one side of it. The other side was I was
working in Orlando, Florida at a lot of the theme
parks there and working primarily in A Capella
music. Which is where I met everybody here.
YOU ALL CAME TOGETHER WORKING IN THEME PARKS?
right. And we were all doing different forms of
A Cappella. like Doo-Wop and patriotic and vocal
jazz things and I thought, well here is something
that no one has ever presented to a theatre audience
in a theatrical way and it was an opportunity to
put something together that, again would be fresh
and unique and contemporary to a lot of new listeners.
There is an outlet in Orlando, Florida called the
Orlando Fringe Festival -- there are several around
the country and around the world -- and they afford
a great opportunity for performers in the area
to experiment with new types of entertainment with
new shows, with new ideas. The whole show was basically
put together for an appearance at the Fringe Festival
and was so successful and just took off that we
decided to stay together as a team. The dream became “Hey
- we might be able to take this somewhere and eventually
be able to get to a New York audience and present
our work there.”
I LOVE THIS SHOW! I OFTEN HAVE DIFFICULTY EXPLAINING
IT TO PEOPLE BECAUSE IT DOES NOT FIT INTO ANY
TRADITIONAL CATEGORY. HOW DO ANY OF YOU DESCRIBE
use words like “tight harmonies,” “improv,” “comedy,” “fun.” I
say instead of going to the theatre it’s
like going to a party. There is a lot of audience
participation involved and it’s real. What
we do that is maybe a little bit different than
some shows is we like that interaction. We want
people from the very intro (referring here to a
series of questions, instructions and sing-alongs
projected to a screen on stage to encourage audience
participation) - we’re getting people barking
back at the screen and inter-acting - it’s
an interactive party and we need that audience
we have an audience member on stage and they (the
audience) start heckling for us to do something
or for the audience member to do something and
we actually enjoy that! There are moments in the
show that are very open and playful and what I
find interesting about it is that we take you on
such a journey that for a 5 year old kid there
is something that will appeal and for an 80 year
old there is something that will appeal. So while
the entire body of work may not exactly be someone’s
cup of tea, there is something in it for everybody.
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