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A CurtainUp Review

Toxic Audio in Loudmouth
By Amanda Cooper

Which did you like better, Riverdance or the hugely cheesy spin-off, Lord of the Dance? If you answered the latter, and you like acapella, then maybe, just maybe, Toxic Audio in Loudmouth is for you.

When in the right mood, I love acapella. There is a vibrational energy like no other that emanates from a chorus of pure voice. Just as Irish Step dancing in its pure form is entertaining and exciting enough, so is acapella. Unfortunately, like Michael Flatley, Mr. Lord of the Dance himself, Toxic Audio, in creating this show, felt otherwise.

Jeremy James, Shalisa James, Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz and Paul Sperrazza make up the vocal group known as Toxic Audio. Their Off-Broadway show, slated for an open run, was created and directed by Rene Ruiz, with the rest of the group members billed as writers, musical directors and arrangers. There is also a costume design credit (David Brooks) and a scenic and lighting designer (Peter R. Feuchtwanger), so one cannot solely put the blame of this show's bad taste on creator Ruiz.

Between the colorful and drastic lights, fog machines, futuristic jungle-gym set and over-the-top club kid outfits, I wasn't sure if I was at a theater or some brassy new nightspot. To be sure the performers have pure, sweet-sounding voices, and they sound really good as a group, but eighty percent of this show had me thinking, "Stop doing stupid things and sing some songs already!"

Toxic Audio has grabbed at every possible chance to grab some audience participation in an effort to move the show along. They even walk through the seats in the first number!

Just as I was beginning to wonder how these five could keep their voices going on a constant show schedule, a performer went directly by my seat, and sure enough I could hear their amped vocals without a problem, but the decibels coming out of their actual mouth was surprisingly minimal.

Perhaps I am being too tough on this show; after all, they did receive a raucous ovation from the audience -- could they have been the same people who make up Michael Flatley's following?

Toxic Audio in Loudmouth
Featuring: Jeremy James, Shalisa James, Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz and Paul Sperrazza
Directed and Conceived by: Rene Ruiz
Lighting and Scenic Design: Peter R. Feuchtwanger
Costume Design: David Brooks
Sound Design/Technician: John A. Valines III
Original Material by: Jeremy James, Rene Ruiz and Paul Sperrazza
Musical Direction and Arrangements: Shalisa James and Michelle Mailhot-Valines
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes, no intermission

The John Houseman Theater 450 W. 42nd St. 212-239-6200
Tuesday throughFriday @ 8pm; Saturday @ 4pm & 8pm; Sunday @ 2pm --$42.50.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on April 23, 2004 performance
Last performance: 10/31/04--after 225 performances
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