A Bland Yoko Ono Mainstream Musical

NEW YORK ROCK AT the WPA Theater through April 17.

MOST people, trying to guess in advance what sort of adjectives would apply to Yoko Ono's first foray into musical theater, probably wouldn't suggest ``mainstream'' or ``accessible.''

But, surprisingly, that's exactly what ``New York Rock'' is.

Another word also comes to mind that has never been used to describe its controversial creator - bland.

``New York Rock'' is a mostly sung-through musical, containing more than 30 numbers, many of them cribbed from her recorded output. But far from being avant-garde, the score is a pleasant, homogenous blend of pop-rock, orchestrated for a six-piece band.

The music is tuneful and melodic, and, as sung by theater-style voices as opposed to Ono's own distinctive high-pitched squall, it goes down quite easily, even if most of the tunes aren't particularly memorable at a first hearing.

Only a couple of the numbers, including a primal-scream number called ``O'Sanity'' (powerfully sung by Walter O'Neil) and the pretty ditty ``Yes, I'm Your Angel'' break through the pack.

The thin plot centers around random acts of violence in New York City, something with which the musical's author is all too well acquainted.

The opening segment features a mother (Jan Horvath) being stabbed to death in a mugging, leaving her son Little Bill (Sean Dooley) behind, but her spirit continues to watch over him.

Growing up to be a musician, Bill (Pat McRoberts) meets Jill (Lynnette Perry), with whom he begins a love affair. Shortly into the second act, tragedy strikes again as Bill is senselessly shot down and killed, and the widowed Jill must now attempt to redefine her life without him.

The final number, ``Good-bye Sadness,'' ends the show on a buoyant note of hopefulness, with the entire cast of well-armed characters throwing away their guns and one even dropping his cigarette in disgust.

Urban atmosphere is provided by three street kids (Aaron Blackshear, Evan Ferrante, Peter Kim) and three menacing gang types: Ignorance (Pete Herber), Violence I (Walter O'Neil) and Violence II (Paul Mahos).

The show might have benefited from a specific rather than an archetypal approach, and there is no shortage of the preachiness (as in the number ``Now or Never'') that has marked much of Ono's career.

Overall, the show is mildly diverting, but considering that its author might have brought a provocative new voice to musical theater, its conformity is a bit of a letdown.

The hard-working cast members fulfill their assignments admirably, and Phillip Oesterman's direction and Kenneth Tosti's choreography (as energetic as anything can be on the tiny Works Projects Administration Theater stage) keep things moving at a fast pace. Terry Leong's sets and costumes provide the appropriate urban squalor.

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