American Star Explores "American Dream" at the Theater for the New City
I had the privilege of seeing “American Star,” written and directed by the highly acclaimed and truly insightful William “Electric” Black, also known for his work in My Boyfriend Is A Zombie, The Lonely Soldier Monologues, Betty & The Belrays and The Hamlet Project.
This play is a critical analysis of everything that’s wrong with the present day ‘American Dream’ as told through the experience of a teenager fighting for her own dream.
Through the play, the audience meets Stacey, played by the ever talented Alexa Criscitello. Stacey is a teenager in the midst of SAT season who knows books aren’t her ticket to success. She’s eager to chase her dream by auditioning for the American Star singing competition at the local convention center. Her adoptive mother is not too thrilled by this idea and tells her to get her SAT scores up like her arch nemesis, Kelly Dumbrowski, who is popular, smart and unapologetically bitchy. Kelly is also auditioning for the competition. Determined to get to the audition, despite her father’s inability to drive her down to the convention center, Stacey hitch-hikes and she meets some unique characters along the way.
First there’s LLMJ (Long Live Michael Jackson), a Michael Jackson impersonator trying to keep the memory of the pop great alive. Then there’s Occupy, a protestor on a path to fight the system. He is joined by his posse whose attitude matches his own. Occupy is Stacey’s only hope to get to the convention center. Although he offers to drive Stacey in his bus, he’s against the very thing she’s trying to become.
After Stacey, LLMJ, Occupy and his gang get so riled up on the street, the police come and whisk them off to jail. Stacey’s parents can’t afford to bail her out and her best friend can only offer a demented Barbie doll (a motif throughout the play) for comfort. Luckily, Stacey’s “fairy guard mother” gets her out of prison offering some sound advice of course. It turns out her “guard mother” has her own record label, and in the end Stacey achieves her dream of becoming a top star, but she becomes one with a conscious.
This play takes a real look at what it means to be a star in this modern age. Many of the musical numbers hit upon minor and profound societal issues. What’s truly genius is that writer and director William “Electric” Black chose the engaging lens of the teenager to analyze what the ‘American Dream’ has become. “I have three daughters, so I hear this sort of thing all the time” says Black. “My daughter Skye just went through taking all of her exams.”
Some of the best numbers in the musical are “Kim” a guide on how to become a star, but more importantly, it’s an ode to everything that’s wrong with why Kim Kardashian is one of the most famous woman in the world. Two other numbers are: “I-World” & “Occupy” which are sung by the character Occupy. Director Black has a special purpose for this character. “Occupy is a lens into the truth behind what’s going on in corporate media” Black says. Essentially, Occupy is the voice of reason, radical or otherwise, and he opens the audiences’ eyes to the truth behind the play.
Other cast members include Rachel Caplan, Alise Eve Haigazian, Verna Hampton, Taylor LaBarbera, Brandon Mellette,Valois Marie Mickens, Choomasi Nsiah, Michael Perrie Jr and Levern Williams. The musicians are: Gary Schreiner on keyboard, Saadi Zain (Bass) and James Mussen on drums. Choreography by Jeremy Lardieri, costumes by Susan Hemley and Lighting & Set Design by Federico Restrepo.
Overall, “American Star” is a fun time. Although the play is intended for family audiences, there is some mild swearing. “American Star” is running until April. 28th, so I advise interested parties to see the show before it closes. It’s a great story with a truly “Electric” cast. The energy feeds off the crowd, the singing is superb and it leaves the viewer feeling happy. Moreso, it leaves you thinking, ‘whoa, what is really going on in the world?’
“American Star, the Musical” is at the Theatre for the New City, located at 155 First Avenue New York, NY 10003. For tickets, call: 212-254-1109.