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KEVIN RAY: Reviews

It is easy to see why the festival invited “Central Avenue Breakdown,” which was part of the 2011 lineup, to return. The show, which ended its run on Sunday at the Pershing Square Signature Center, is rich with lively, moving and often truly original music by Kevin Ray.

Lyrics like “Woke up dead this morning,” “I was born on Black Monday” and, in a gentler mood, “Martha, bring your love back to the light” create a haunting and convincing sense of place and time.

...What a difference nine months can make. When I first reviewed "Central Avenue Breakdown," last October in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, I found it promising, with many strong elements, including most of Kevin Ray's music and some performances, but seriously lacking when it came to the lyrics and book and many of the actors. The happy news is that the show has come back to NYMF in a big way, vastly improved in all of its ingredients and perfectly scaled to its new venue.

Under the same director-choreographer, Christopher Windom, the show now dazzles....

...really captures the room...
Fiona Apple - Recording Artist (Dec 21, 2003)
Smart Songwriting
"Radio Friendly" represents a terrific effort from start to finish. Listening intently with the included lyrics will bring out even more beauty.
'SOUND ADVICE' REVIEW

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. These singers are on Broadway - well, Broadway and 51st Street, as employees at the neon-lit Ellen's Stardust Diner, serving up salads, sandwiches and songs. Perhaps you've heard the voices of the young, energetic wait staff there as you pass by this establishment, also a tourist favorite. A number of them have gone on to join the casts of Broadway shows and other productions after their stints serenading customers with hit show tunes accompanied by the trusty karaoke tracks. Now they've made their first CD, and it's very much a family affair: singing, writing, band, design all by the diner's employees. And yes, it's a holiday album, hot off the press. It's available at CDbaby and also at the restaurant so you can get it just in time for the season it celebrates. Since you may by now have had your fill of the over-exposed Christmas perennials, fret not: these are all new songs.

The creator of these original songs is Stardust's resident songwriter, Kevin Ray, who plays keyboards (and sleigh bells, naturally), produced, and sings with his striking high voice on several tracks including the solo, "Hanukah's Violin." Alysha Umphress, who has been appearing as co-host at the Friday night open mic "After Party" at the Laurie Beechman Theater on West 42nd Street, lends her passion and pipes to a strong and searing "I'm Not Missing Christmas."

There are some cute comedy pieces here, all sung by groups. The idea for "Randy the Rotten Christmas Elf" was supplied by Scott Barbarino, who runs the diner and the adjoining Iridium jazz club. Scott joins four of his staff to sing this entertaining number about Santa's helper with a mean streak (executive album producer Jeffrey Simno plays the tiny man with the big attitude problem with devilish delight). "Fat Christmas" is all about the perils of overindulgence in food and the title song is the lament of the overworked, overstressed restaurant worker.

My all-around favorite is "New Year," a refreshing and actually empowering piece of writing about setting goals for self-improvement. It's well done in a committed performance by Jessica Bradish with the writer. Many of Kevin's songs here are on the light side, cheerfully so for the season, with a few that are more emotional. But they only hint at his deeper, more complex songwriting. A great number of them can be heard at his website, including those from musicals he has written and is developing. More information at www.stardustfamilyalbum.com. It's a great way to give exposure to some of the many talented young people who fill New York City awaiting their first or next break.
Rob Lester - Talkin' Broadway (Dec 21, 2006)
“Seasoned Greetings brought me a fantastic listener reaction. I recommend this new CD most emphatically!”
Joe Franklin - The Joe Franklin Show (Dec 1, 2006)