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FAMILY : 'Threads' a Tapestry of Music and Laughs

November 17, 1994|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The press release for "The Gang's New Threads" at Theater 1110 in Hollywood didn't sound promising, identifying the show as a hip-hop musical exploring "the importance of designer clothes and fashion in the conformist world of urban youth."

Two hours of loud hip-hop and rap, and earnest teen-agers in baggy jeans and baseball caps?

Not even close. Although the show, written by Rob Hanning and Randy Weiner, loses some of its buoyant tone and clarity in the second act, this often hilarious, salty musical serves up big laughs; glorious, roof-raising vocals; clever R&B and rap lyrics, and dynamite hip-hop choreography.

The plot is simple. How is John (rap artist Novacain) going to win Jane (singer Trina), the girl of his dreams, when she belongs to the town of Trendsville's "fashion gang," the Phlavors, and he's just a plain T-shirt and jeans kind of guy?

Enter Fashion Man (Zeno), an intergalactic alien in silver lame (Zelda Hacker and Tanya Reid did the colorful, imaginative costumes), who gives John an idea for a hot new trend in apparel--underwear as headgear.

John doesn't know that Fashion Man is teaching the Phlavors a lesson by giving John the stupidest idea he can. When the Trendsville teens make their new fashion statement at the upcoming "International Fashion Expo" in New York, they'll be exposed for the foolish fashion sheep that they are. Or will they?

It's lightweight stuff, but highly entertaining, thanks to heavyweight musical and physical talent. The good-looking teen-age and 20-something cast members are mostly experienced rap artists, singers and dancers. As Hitop, Darin Campbell's huge, rich voice is a show-stopper. Robin Andre, as Phlavors leader GQ, excels in comic attitude, backed up by Hitop's flunkies Kicks (Gimel Hooper) and Laces (Blas Lorenzo).

Hitop's girlfriend Roxanne (Latamra) is another vocal powerhouse. She also has hip-hop moves that won't quit, as does the entire six-member ensemble that acts as Greek chorus, chorus line and secondary characters.

Hanning and Weiner wrote the lyrics; Abby Schneider did the surprisingly (to non-teen-age ears) listenable music. Weiner and choreographer Sabrina Peck co-directed. Greg Van Horn did the simple set. The cut-above sound design and lights are by Meegan Holmes and Joe Allegro, respectively.

* "The Gang's New Threads," Theater 1110, 1110 N. Hudson Ave., Hollywood, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m. through Nov. 27 (except Thanksgiving Day). Ages 12 and up. $12.50; (213) 466-1767.

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