ALL AMERICAN BOY
nytheatre.com review by Elizabeth Rothaus
Early in the pop-rock musical All American Boy, a manager
advises his group of boy-band wannabes "the raw talent is
there—we just have to squeeze it out," before he orchestrates
their hilarious transformation from regular guys to
chart-topping superstars. In fact, the raw talent in this
production shines through abundantly and if it requires any
tweaking at all, it’s minimal.
August 15, 2002
All American Boy brilliantly uses the pop-music vernacular while simultaneously skewering the illusion of perfect teen idols created by savvy publicists and media hype. Thomas Caruso’s music sounds authentically "pop" with close harmonies, synthesized backup, and a pulsing rhythm throughout. More impressive still is the effective use of songs to propel the story forward. The book and lyrics by James Edwin Parker cleverly integrate contemporary culture (such as online chatrooms in the entertaining song "Dot Com Baby") and convincingly utilize language and topics of discussion favored by teenage boys.
It is great fun watching these actors, who perfectly embody the types of teen idols (including the ubiquitous tough guy, clean-cut kid, and Latino) proffered by groups like *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. The choreography and costumes are also right on the mark in showing that the boys are just as pre-fabricated as the moves and clothes they employ.
The discovery that some of the band members are gay serves as the catalyst for the show’s moral imperative that those who are not true to themselves ultimately will crash and burn. This more serious message balances well with the satirical elements in the first act, but suffers somewhat in the second when the plot becomes much more steeped in camp. This is disappointing, as the promise of the first act is so high; the second act is a bit of a let-down by comparison.
Still, this is a fun show with lots of bright spots including many well-crafted songs, a compelling plot-line and entertaining performances by a versatile cast. It’s certainly worth a look by anyone who’s ever been obsessed with a boy band—and let’s face it, that’s most of us at one time or another.