BROOKLYN – THE MUSICAL * Book, music, and lyrics by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson * Directed by Jeff Calhoun * Plymouth Theatre, New York City (open-ended run).


The posse of five street-singers who perform Brooklyn – the Musical offer audiences an inside glimpse of a homeless panhandler’s dream life. Funny thing is, it looks remarkably like the average episode of American Idol, where no sentiment is too treacly, no backstory too shopworn, no ambition too grandiose, and no roof-raising vocal pyrotechnics too done-before to crank out one mo’ time. Brooklyn (Eden Espinosa) is a Parisian-born orphan whose suicidal mother named her after her runaway dad’s hometown. Of course, she grows up to be a pop star and travels to America to play Carnegie Hall and to track down her father, who turns out to be a heroin-addicted Vietnam vet. As a rising star she arouses the jealousy of Paradice (Ramona Keller), a sassy vixen whose big hit song “Superlover” boasts of her bisexual lusts. Paradice challenges Brooklyn to a diva-showdown at Madison Square Garden that will be judged by viewers watching at home on television…do you see where this is going?

Espinosa (who understudied both leads in Wicked) and Keller (late of Caroline or Change) have incredible voices and sing the hell out of lyrics like “I believed in miracles, that love conquered all, that anything was possible.” This “sidewalk fairy tale,” created by Broadway novices Mark Schoenfeld (who was briefly homeless himself) and Barri McPherson (who saved him from the streets), is staged by Jeff Calhoun as a story-theater mix of Rent, Cats, and Godspell. In other words, it would be a perfect After-School Special or a gospel melodrama for busloads of church ladies. On Broadway it looks like a big ol’ plate of microwaved leftovers.

The Advocate, November 23, 2004