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Toxic Audio

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By Esther Lynn

Tox-ic (tok’sik), adj. Webster’s dictionary defines the word as "acting as or having the effect of a poison; poisonous: a toxic drug." Unlike toxic waste and toxic shock syndrome, Toxic Audio is a good thing. A VERY good thing! From now through November 16, music fans will have the opportunity to actually see and hear the five member vocal group as they perform in the Luxor‘s Atrium Showroom, located on the Attractions Level.

Describing Toxic Audio isn‘t easy. Yes, they are singers. Yes, they are sound-makers. Yes, they are funny…and serious. And yes, yes, yes, they are talented.

Created by Jeremy James, Shalisa James, Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz, Paul Sperrazza and John Valines III, Toxic Audio features the varied talents of five unique world-class vocalists who use no instruments other than the human voice to create complex sonic textures, rhythmic drumbeats, thumping bass lines and searing guitar-like solos. The interactive show combines tight harmonies, improv comedy, vocal sound effects and unique visuals. Toxic Audio has been described as "a musical experience unlike any other."

Rated the No. 1 audience recommended show in the Wall Street Journal Zagat Theatre Survey, Toxic Audio showcased their unique vocal, comedic and improvisational skills for a seven-month off-Broadway run. Within the first two months, the show had won the 2004 Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience." They have since performed at Gracie Mansion, Shea Stadium, the Tribeca Film Festival and many others. In early 2005, Toxic Audio released their fourth CD "Word of Mouth," a compilation of recordings from their first three CDs including "Chemistry;" 2003’s Album of the Year winner for best Contemporary A Cappella Recording.

In 1998, Toxic Audio launched its quirky show in an abandoned storefront at the Orlando International Fringe Festival. To their amazement, people began cramming into that storefront to see them. The show caught the attention of Disney executives who hired them as featured performers at the Disney/MGM Studios. There, they spent over a year performing six shows a day for crowds of over 3000. Soon after, the group was crowned champion at the National Harmony Sweepstakes in California.

Since then, the Toxins, as the performers call themselves, have opened for acts such as Tony Bennett, Ziggy Marley, and Wayne Brady. Toxic Audio has also lent its unique style to the corporate world, turning Tupperware and Newell Office products into percussive musical instruments. It’s difficult to define the group’s musical style. Their repertoire is an eclectic mix of almost every musical style including contemporary pop songs, timeless classics, jazz-scat, hip-hop, country and vocally orchestrated original compositions. In their live shows, music lovers can expect to hear Toxic Audio’s unique take on songs such as Route 66, Put the Lime In the Coconut, Autumn Leaves, a "thrilling" Michael Jackson medley, A Little Less Conversation, Stand By Me, Turn the Beat Around and even the Muppet’s familiar Ma Na Ma Na tune. A vocal "tribute" to the Sound Guy (John Valines, husband of the soprano-voiced Michelle Mailhot-Valines) is well deserved, as that "guy" plays an integral part in enhancing the work done by the singers. There is also some clever audience participation involving, in separate numbers, a record player, a TV remote control and lyric cue cards. The participants are willing "victims" and everyone has a good time.

Listening to one of the Toxins’ CDs gives an idea of the harmonies created by these singers but it’s almost like watching David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear on television. One really needs to be there to see that there are no electronic tricks or illusions going on here. The singers even come into the audience to show, up close and personal, that it’s all done live.

You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the work that goes into a revue like this one, although Toxic Audio has a fan base that includes many familiar names, among them Liza Minnelli and David Letterman’s musical director Paul Shaffer. The night I saw this show, my companion, multi-talented singer/actress Diane Ellis, was "blown away" by what she heard. So was the rest of the all-age audience who gave the Toxins a well deserved standing ovation. No American flags, patriotic songs, or political diatribes were needed to generate the genuine response and the only "gimmick" was that created by the vocalists who are Toxic Audio.

As they continue to explore the boundaries of the human voice, the high-energy performers of Toxic Audio are always unexpected, wildly off-the-wall, and utterly entertaining. Think of it as vocal gymnastics. Think of it as Manhattan Transfer meets Second City. Like their publicity says, "Never underestimate the power of the human voice."

Earlier Rating

      Rating: 9.000 Total Times Rated: 4

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