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New York Theater

J.O.B.: The Hip-Hopera

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Two stories from the Bible -- the trials of Job and Cain's slaying of Abel -- are the inspiration for the terrifically fresh new musical J.O.B.: The Hip-Hopera.

Book writers and lyricists Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion reset the action in a record company, where Job's trials are inflicted by the CEO on a brash V.P. at the behest of another V.P. envious of his colleague's influence. We follow aspiring hip-hop performers MC Cain and MC Abel, who work in the jingle department, using their urban rhymes to push products like detergent.

Such wit and satire pervade J.O.B. For instance, new artists are sent to the Gangstafication Room, and the company's marketing manager works with the NRA to gain support for their gun-toting. You'll smile at such details and at the intelligence of the lyrics, even as you're electrified by the show's music, a grand mix of pulsating rhythm and R&B by Sable, Batalion, and Joe Barrucco.

Batalion is also one of the two principal performers, playing Abel opposite Niles Rivers' Cain. These two gifted actors play not only these roles but all the show's other characters, from the ancient, cigar-smoking CEO to the obese head of Gangstafication. When more than two characters must share the stage, a tireless three-person ensemble (Hassan Christopher, Marissa Labog, and Aimée Zannoni) helps fill in, and under the direction of Stefan Novinski and Christopher, all five use the same body language and vocal inflections to indicate their rapidly shifting characters.

Further helping to pull us through this exciting new work is Christopher's choreography, which infuses narrative into street-dancing moves. It's the final piece of a show that truly feels breakthrough.

Presented by Alex Kruglov and FDLT Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival

at the 45th Street Theatre, 354 W. 45th St., NYC.

Sept. 25-Oct. 1.

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