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Dreams, Fate Get 'Twisted' in Time-Hopping Tale of 2 Bands

The groups, two decades apart, play for love and success in a musical that cuts back and forth and ties itself in knots.

September 05, 2002|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Music and sports are the great hopes of many young Americans. Success in one or the other can be a ticket out of poverty or an unhappy home--a fast ride to a better life.

The odds stink, but the dream stays alive.

The new musical "Twisted" tells the tales of two bands, two decades apart, that pursue that dream. Along the way, both groups find themselves bucking the odds in an equally daunting field: love.

These are compelling ideas, driven by a dozen high-energy songs. But the story, by Geo Hartley, loses its way among too many plot strands, and the songs, by Max Baxley, lose some of their power when performed to prerecorded tracks, without microphones.

As nice as it would be to see the show turn into a small-theater smash like "Reefer Madness!" or "bare," the chances don't look good for its presentation at McCadden Place Theatre.

The action cuts back and forth between 1980, when a brother-sister singing duo climbs the charts, and the present, as a co-ed sextet of soulful hip-hoppers tries to get noticed. The connection between the groups is Phyllis (Gayla Goehl), who managed the siblings and, years later, finds herself living adjacent to an alley where the young hip-hoppers practice.

Phyllis has been on the lam for the 22 years in between because she is accused of having killed the female singer in the former group (Phe Caplan) and wounding the brother (Jasper Wood).

The show's title is, in part, a reference to love's tendency to twist the heart around, as Phyllis' entanglement with the '80s duo unfolds alongside complications within the present-day group (Aaron Cooke, Denver Dowridge, Jason Powell, Amber Stuart, Frankie Anne and Bridget Jones).

Little of this rises above the level of a TV crime show, but Hartley's staging is sleek and sexy, and the songs set a fun groove, whether in the style of '80s new wave, slinky R&B or pulsating hip-hop.

The hard-bodied young performers have charisma to spare, and the sounds coming out of their mouths are often quite impressive (though some of the harmony numbers were still experiencing pitch problems during opening weekend).

The songs are performed without amplification, though, which makes them sound naked. Today's ears expect that added level of slickness in a pop song.

*

"Twisted," McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Sept. 29. $20. (310) 275-9887. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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