How'r ya gonna get 'em back to SAT prep when they dream of being instant stars on TV?

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April 11 to 28, 2013
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at East 10th Street), NYC
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$15 gen. adm.; $12 students and seniors; Box office (212) 254-1109,
Running time: 100 minutes.

No grown up wants their child to skip college to become the next Idol-like celebrity. But what would you say to your teenage daughter when she announces, "I got a 1200 on my SAT's. That makes my safety school Fairway! So I hafta get to the American Star tryouts."? Face it, moms and dads yearn for ivy-covered walls while kids sigh for limo rides and late night TV appearances. How'r ya gonna get 'em back to SAT prep after they've been indoctrinated by "Glee," "The Voice" and "X Factor"? "American Star!!!," a rockin', boppin' family-friendly musical written and directed by Emmy-winner William Electric Black, has some of the answers. Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, presents the show's world premiere run April 11 to 28.

This is a musical for people soon applying to college and for adults trying to live through it, in other words, for audiences aged 13 to 93. This piece sports 17 original numbers written by the team of William Electric Black and Gary Schreiner, both Emmy-winners. There's an ensemble of ten actors and a three-piece live band. Book, lyrics and direction are by William Electric Black.

Stacey Star, a high school bullying target with low SAT's, dreams of becoming a superstar and auditioning for "American Star," a talent show emceed by the glamorous Maxine Mack. Unfortunately, so does her arch-rival, Kelly Dumbrowski, a popular "Queen Bee" with high SAT's who has changed her name to Kim, in loving emulation of Kim Kardashian. Stacey's adoptive parents are supportive of her quest, but her dad can't drive her to the auditions (the car's broken), so she must hitch. On the road, she falls in with dudes who embody the pro- and anti-commercialization forces of the "pop" world: one is named LLMJ (Long Live Michael Jackson), whose life is devoted to the great gloved one; the other is Occupy, a school bus driver who protests against sacrificing our youth to the commercial culture. Stacy and Occupy wind up in jail together for picketing "American Star," which they decry as "Corporate Star." Stacy's Fairy Guard Mother helps her out of the slammer, but by the time she can get to the set, the auditions are over. Stacy is about to give up and join the Army and delivers a "spotlight number" about being (or not being) a loser, listening to your parents and and getting real about a career. Maxine Mack witnesses the song, is taken with Stacy's talent and offers the girl a recording contract. Stacy's rival, Kim/Kelly, is left behind to a life of college loans, affirming the eternal truth that society is not fair to any of us, but at least some of us can rock 'n roll. The fun is in the ride to this fairy tale ending, which is sung and danced with the wit and humor that earned fame for William Electric Black as a writer on "Sesame Street."

In 2009, Black directed TNC's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time. "American Star!!!" represents the "other" genre of Black's theatrical work, which is creating delightful musicals for family audiences. Too bad if you missed his last two rock musicals at TNC, "Betty and the Belrays" (2007), in which three white female singers challenged a racially divided society by singing for a black record label, and "My Boyfriend is a Zombie" (2010), which was like Grease with a zombie twist.

Writing as Ian Ellis James, Black has won seven Emmys as a writer for "Sesame Street," composing songs for Queen Latifah, Erykah Badu, Patti Labelle, and Arrested Development (among others) when they appeared on the show. His educational TV projects have also been produced by Topstone Productions, Lancet Media, Nickelodeon, Scholastic Productions, Warner Cable, and Winchester TV & Film, London. He has received several Best Play Awards, been published by Benchmark Education, The Dramatic Publishing Co., Smith & Krauss, and received a Bronze Apple for directing (National Educational Video Award). Black has had two film scripts optioned, "Slave Ball" for Silver Pictures/Warner Brothers and "Road Runner" for MCA Records, Jerome Ade, Producer. He has also written, directed, and produced two independent features. Theater for the New City gave Black his start in theater, presenting his earliest work, "Billy Stars and Kid Jupiter" (1980). Now, TNC proudly continues its tradition of supporting and developing Black's unusual and energetic theatrical work.

Black is curator of the Poetry Electric reading series at La MaMa, which fuses music, movement, sound, and dance with the spoken word. Black is also a professor at NYU's Tisch School, where among other things, he teaches techniques performance of plays based on literary works.

Co composer Gary Schreiner received an Emmy for his work on the PBS special "Sneakers," starring Jon Secada. and writes music actively for films, TV and theater. He has contributed music to 23 feature films, including "Donnie Brasco," "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" and "Tiptoes." In theater, he scored Alison Larkin's hit one woman show, "The English American," which led to the bestselling novel of the same name. He collaborated with Black on the TNC production of "My Boyfriend is a Zombie" (2010). He has authored a number of popular instructional books such as "Slow Way to Get Rich Quick," "Fast Track to Speaking Slowly" and "101 Ways To Be Indifferent." He is also an avid inventor and curator of his own food museum, currently developing  a one-way Ziploc bag for people on diets. He was a featured guest artist at Sting's benefit concert for the Rainforest Fund. Schreiner and his writing partner Curt Sobel recently licensed music for the movie" Parker" starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez. 

The actors are Rachel Caplan, Alexa Criscitiello, Alise Eve Haigazian, Verna Hampton, Taylor LaBarbera, Brandon Mellette, Valois Marie Mickins, Choomasi Nsiah, Michael Perrie, Jr. and Levern Williams. The musicians are Gary Schreiner (keyboard), Saadi Zain (bass) and James Mussen (drums). Choreography is by Jeremy Lardieri. Costume design is by Susan Hemley. Lighting and set design are by Federico Restrepo. Props are by Litza Colon.