Nobody Runs Alone

San Fernando Valley elementary school educators Bob Arnold, Hank Amigo and John Balbuena have created a musical from their experiences dealing with economically deprived students grappling with low self-esteem, dysfunctional homes and street life. Resulting tuner makes up in energy and unabashed commitment what it lacks in professional fluidity.

With:
Young Alone - Arthur Aleksanyan Older Alone - Kevin Campos Johnny Padrino - Billy Sheets Jerry - Oscar Zepeda Jorge - Ramsey Campbell Jamaal - Wesley "Trey" Bryant Mother - Suzanne Scarmack Dad - Dennis Ruelas Mr. Mendoza - Hank Amigo Young Patty - Paola Flores Older Patty - Jesenia Bernal Principal - Bob Wilson

San Fernando Valley elementary school educators Bob Arnold, Hank Amigo and John Balbuena have created a musical from their experiences dealing with economically deprived students grappling with low self-esteem, dysfunctional homes and street life. Resulting tuner makes up in energy and unabashed commitment what it lacks in professional fluidity.

Helmer Arnold admirably guides a 44-member ensemble through the coming-of-age saga of a young Latino destined to be swallowed up by an educational system that had him programmed for failure. His eventual realization that he can transcend his upbringing is dramatically predictable but still fun to watch.

Buoyed by the zesty Latin jazz-tinged score of musicians Amigo, Balbuena and Nick Scarmack, tuner traces the immense pressures beating down on Young Alone (Kevin Aleksanyan) as he struggles to maintain his equilibrium. Aleksanyan is still in the process of becoming comfortable with his own voice, but he offers emotionally viable renderings of Young Alone’s sense of hopelessness (“No Way, No Where, No How”); his love for his mother (“Mi Querido Mama”); and insidious self-doubt (“I’m No Good”).

The scripters emphasize that it takes a community of caring, committed adults to mentor, nurture and protect children like Young Alone until they reach the maturity and confidence to take control of their own lives. This is emphatically realized when Young Alone learns he can’t sidestep no-nonsense teacher Mr. Mendoza (Amigo).

The difficulty of Mendoza’s task is underscored by Young Alone’s confrontation with his life-defeated drunk of a father (Dennis Ruelas), who admits he is no role model (“Bad Dad”).

Act two introduces Older Alone (Kevin Campos) as the boy moves on to high school. Campos is a confident thesp who offers veracity to Alone’s burgeoning romance with childhood friend Patty (Jesenia Bernal). Their romantic duet “I’ll Lift You Up” is one of the show’s highlights.

Proceedings are enlivened by an adroit eight-piece instrumental ensemble led by co-creator/music director/keyboardist Balbuena, as well as the streetwise choreography of Christina Tyni and Tig Pena’s supportive sound design.

Nobody Runs Alone

El Portal Theater; 450 seats; $20 top

Production: A Boone Foundation/Amigos, in association with El Portal Theater, presentation of a musical play in two acts by Bob Arnold, Hank Amigo and John Balbuena, music and lyrics by Amigo, Balbuena and Nick Scarmack. Directed by Arnold. Musical direction, Balbuena. Choreography, Christina Tyni.

Crew: Sets, Mitch Simmons; lighting, Craig Housenick, Joel Williamson; costumes, Diane Winesburg; sound, Tig Pena; video, Brendy Iraheta, Lilia Felipe. Opened, reviewed April 29, 2006; runs through May 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: Young Alone - Arthur Aleksanyan Older Alone - Kevin Campos Johnny Padrino - Billy Sheets Jerry - Oscar Zepeda Jorge - Ramsey Campbell Jamaal - Wesley "Trey" Bryant Mother - Suzanne Scarmack Dad - Dennis Ruelas Mr. Mendoza - Hank Amigo Young Patty - Paola Flores Older Patty - Jesenia Bernal Principal - Bob WilsonWith: Jessica Arnold, Sarah Arnold, David Azpeitia, Erika Azpeitia, Tatiana Bohorquez, Carlos Carballo, Elizabeth Cardenas, Melissa Castillo, John Catalano, Brandon Church, Carlos Cruz, Carol Cruz, Byron Engleking, Magali Flores, Maria Flores, Gustavo Lopez, Tino Lopez, Beth Martinez, Alejandra Maya, Stan McKee, Amanda Monje, Cary Perkins, Fatima Jimenez, Estella Owoimaha, Giovanny Ramirez, Esmeralda Ruelas, Dennis Rivera, Ritz Rosel, Jessica Saidla, Lynette Smith, Teresa Wallin, Wendy Winters.

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