Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Rock Musical tells of big city ghetto

Cleveland Press April 29, 1971

NEW YORK -- "The Me Nobody Knows" was an off Broadway musical. It is a year old and is now on Broadway. It is a rock musical about big city ghetto life, notably among the blacks and Puerto Ricans.

It is based on the book of the same name which was a collection of brief writings by ghetto school children. The book is really a springboard for the show, lines serving as song cues mostly. Most of the Iyrics are professionally written.

Spirit and sincerity are the strong points in this show along with the energetic performances of 12 youngsters ranging in age from about 11 to 18 or 19.

There is no story line, just a series of impressions and vignettes. The kids sing of their dreams, their desires, their frustrations, their observations. The first act is rather bright and optimistic, the second is bleak but seems more honest. It is in the second act that the kids start to sing about the horrors they see all around them; the drugs, the rats, poverty and oppression.

UNLIKE SOME message shows, this one always rings true. Some of it is surface much of it digs down into their experiences. It is uneven material, however, and sometimes it is spread rather thin.

It ranges from the obvious (and generally funny) to the less obvious, the longings that are more difficult to explain.

"My favorite subject is lunch," one youngster belts out. "Mashed potatoes on the.wall, teachers shrieking in the hall." It's as though Art Linkletter went slumming.

MORE TO THE point is "Rejoice " a bitter ode to practicality -- rats killed the baby so now there's more for everyone and the kid will never know the horrors of growing up.

In a number near the end, the whole company sings "Let Me Come In," which eloquently sums up their desires.

The music is spirited, pseudo-rock rather than genuine rock, a dash of rhythm and blues and the flavor of spirituals. The overall feel of the music, Iyrics and book is one of sincerity rather than professionalism.