SAN DIEGO -- A ground-breaking new musical, Avenue X , will have its West Coast premiere March 13 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Not only is it the first doo-wop musical but the first musical to be performed without an orchestra--the entire score is sung live and "a capella" by eight performers whose voices are their only instrument.
Winner of the prestigious Richard Rodgers' Musical Theatre Award, Avenue X is set in 1963 on a street in Brooklyn that divides a Black and an Italian neighborhood. The story deals with a young Italian-American named Pasquale and an African-American named Milton who risk cultural and racial prejudice by deciding to sing together in a doo-wop contest. The vibrant sounds of rock 'n roll, gospel and rhythm and blues are also heard.
Avenue X is the work of composer Ray Leslee, winner of the 1997 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation for Best Composer of Musical Theatre, and librettist John Jiler, author of the novel Sleeping With the Mayor .
At its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York four years ago, Avenue X played to full houses and critical acclaim. It has since been produced in eleven American cities. San Diego Rep artistic director Sam Woodhouse will direct the show, which he called "a wonderfully illuminating story about two young men who dream of doing the impossible. Avenue X asks the questions: how do we Americans learn to live with each other, how do we learn to respect our differences, discover our similarities and embrace the incredibly diverse values and traditions of the people of our country."
The cast includes John-Martin Green, Gary Lowery, Seth Sharp, Ramon McLane, Duane Daniels, Julie Jacobs, Gregory Porter and Leata Galloway.
At the San Diego Rep's Lyceum Theatre in Horton Square through April 15. Wed.-Sat. at 8 PM; Sun. & Tues. 7 PM; Sun. at 2 PM. Additional matinees March 18 and April 1. Tickets are $20-$30. Call (619) 544-1000.
--By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent