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New York Theater

My New York

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A collage of cultural colors and styles clearly designed to foster harmony among children, My New York boasts attractively written songs but suffers from overly gentle characterizations and dialogue.

In this relatively brief (less than an hour) show, the focus is on a school competition to design a mural. In the class are children of different ethnicities and types — African American, Dominican, Indian, Chinese, and Jewish — all of whom are trying to create their own piece by tapping into their heritage. They are led by a teacher called Miss Sunshine, who hangs on the periphery, smiling away.

Even in a children's show, jagged, perhaps even unpleasant conflicts can be necessary to sustain energy. Inherent in the setup for My New York is the likelihood of an ethnic clash or the possibility that at least some of the children night feel bitter toward each other. Book writer Carla Jablonski, however, seems afraid to tread on anyone's sensibilities. The short musical largely amounts to mild exchanges with each child followed by a carefully inoffensive monologue and song, such as Wendy's celebration of the Chinese New Year or Ray's celebration of Little India in Queens. One exception is Sophie's monologue and song about not wanting to go to Hebrew school, which had realism and a spark missing from the rest of the show.

Rick Hip-Flores' bouncy, charming, and appropriate songs pretty much sustain things, though. And director Linda Ames Keys has her cast well organized, especially Barret Doss, a dynamic presence and fine singer as Clarisse, and Sarah Levine, funny and suitably whiny as Sophie. Dax Vadles (Ray), Paul Pino (JT), EJ Zimmerman (Wendy), and Dilhya Ross (Miss Sunshine and other roles) are all professional and focused. Vadles doubles as the choreographer, and his work is impressive, particularly in Wendy's dance, complete with Chinese ribbons.

Presented by Vital Children's Theatre at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2612 Broadway, 4th fl., NYC. Nov. 18-Jan. 7. Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Additional performances Wed., Dec. 27, and Fri., Dec. 29, 1 p.m.) (212) 352-3101 or www.theatermania.com.

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