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LA Theater Review

Junk: A Rock Opera

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Perhaps a better title for this pop-rock opera would be Messy. There are several strong vocal performances and a few catchy songs (music and lyrics by Swedish band Brainpool), but they often are blanketed by a nonsensical plot, clunky choreography, and sound-mixing issues that render much of the music indecipherable and too loud.

The plot would be impossible to understand without reading the synopsis provided in the program, because the songs cover generalities.

The play is set in the future, when one corporation, Junk Inc., runs all aspects of the world, from manufacturing to entertainment. Anna (Natalya Oliver), a secretary and would-be singer, gets a chance to showcase her band at a club called the Junkyard, though she must submit to the advances of Junk CEO Ernie (Michael Edwin Stuart). Max (Daniel Guzman), a janitor, loves Anna and vows vengeance against the evil Ernie. The other featured characters are Junk executives Martina (Niketa Calame) and Hannes (Kam Talbert), and drag queen Kioko (Aldo José Puccini), who commits suicide in the opening scene and appears afterward as a spirit.

A nice mix of voices is led by Oliver, who as Anna ably handles the soulful "Cottage Cheese" and the hard-edged "All Free Agents." Puccini's falsetto is haunting and suits the role of Kioko. The other strong singer is Calame, who shows off her range in the climactic "Martina Says."

There are major blocking and technical issues. A dozen dancers clog the small Lyric stage, and the cheerleaderlike steps, choreographed by Ramie Becker, lack creativity. The live five-piece band, located upstage behind a chain-link fence, is much louder than the singers on up-tempo numbers, and cranking up the poor sound system distorts the vocals. Junk was released as a concept album, which makes more sense than as a production that has poor sound and offers no visually interesting elements.

Presented by Epic Megalopolis Productions, Lyric Theatre Foundation, and Laurence Braun at the Lyric Theatre,

520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.

Tue.-Sat. 8 p.m. Aug. 28-Sep. 1. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sep. 6-29. Sun. 7 p.m. Sep. 16-30. Aug. 28-Sep. 30.

(323) 939-9220. www.lyrictheatrela.com.

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