Hear Three Card Monty from Neon.
Hear Highway from Neon.
Hear Limousine from Neon.
Several things must be kept in mind while examining the piece:
First of all, the construction is pure opera; not Broadway book musical. The piece is strictly classical in style. However, I employ chest type singers as opposed to bel canto, (i.e. pop, rock, jazz, gospel, etc.) to create an immediacy with a contemporary audience.
Second, I was careful not to use my words in an editorial fashion but to report as it is. The music is the thrust and power of the work and thus, the editorial. When reading this libretto, it is of the most importance that you read the language as a sung lyric and not a spoken word. Because this piece is virtually all sung I, obviously, had to choose sparingly what words I needed to push the plot.
NEON (a street opera) is theatre noir. In the metaphysical sense...out of the darkness a blade of grass pushes up through the concrete.
It is night and the street is bristling like a midway. Everyone's got something to sell!
Evie, a young girl, gets all of her money stolen by a mugger and creates such a disturbance to annoyingly distract a very self-involved Barker who is trying to point out two of his products. Holding back her tears she tries to regroup. Finding some change in her pockets she goes to a phone booth and makes some calls.
Seeing an opportunity, the Barker slides down the street and comes on to her. She angrily snubs him.
Terry, finished playing his alto saxophone for the night to make his rent, starts to walk up the street. He is accidentally knocked into an unsuspecting Evie by Monte who is trying to elude two angry men he ripped off at his three-card game.
Evie is furious that Terry spilled his soda all over her best dress. Amongst Bags preaching about God and Wino soliciting for a drink, Terry tries to apologize to no avail. Evie hits him up for some change and storms off to the phone booth again to make some more calls.
Doper approaches and questions Terry about what was going on. Terry blows it off but, obviously agitated, expresses his frustration about the street and how he'd love to get out. The feelings are mutual and seem to reflect the rest of the street.
Monte beats another sucker at his game. Terry walks up the block to Evie who's been unsuccessful with her phone calls and asks her what she's going to do. She doesn't know. More relaxed they sit down and start to talk about their lives. Terry is from a small town near Saint Louis called Mascoutah and wants to be a musician. Evie's from Houston. And though she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, feels compelled to follow her instincts which brought her to New York City. In the mean time she'd at least like to find a place of her own to work things out.
With it getting late, Terry, under the most honorable circumstances, offers Evie his place to sleep for the night. She cautiously accepts and subsequently finds herself compelled to make love to him.
While Terry sleeps, a restless Evie contemplates her feelings of love for him. She is drawn to the window and sees the Barker looking up at her from the street below. He beckons to her.
Wino, drunk out of his mind, tries to pick up Bags who is suckling a plastic baby doll that she thinks is the infant Jesus while staving off the obscenities of Razz and fighting with her imaginary Harry.
Terry tries to practice in his studio apartment to no avail. His neighbors start banging the walls and pipes. He retaliates by doing the same to them. Calming down he tries to practice again when a knock at the door interrupts. Exasperated, with great hostility he opens the door to see Evie walk in with a large bag of groceries.
Terry is upset for not seeing her for three days but soon enough mellows out. He excitedly tells her about an audition he has for a band that is about to record and tour. Having heard him play Evie thinks he'll get it. Terry blows it off trying not to make too much about it. Evie sights her father as an example of hard determination to get what you want. Even though she hates him for his hypocrisy and the hurt he brought to her family she still admires his success in business and determined to be successful herself.
Obviously taken by her, Terry suggests that they live together and pool their resources. Evie resists sighting the failure of a previous relationship of hers that brought her to New York.
Terry tries to win her over with his charm and they end up making love.
Razz indulges himself in a cloud of obscenities. The Barker, who is jealous of Terry and Evie's affair angrily takes his hostility on Razz and starts beating him up.
Meanwhile, Terry and Evie are getting dressed. She comments on how he could fix up his apartment and Terry takes that as her willingness to move in with him. She once again resists the offer but is obviously more taken with him. Terry leaves to go to the audition and Evie runs after him to the street to give him a final good luck kiss.
As she starts to climb the stairs back to Terry's apartment, she hears the Barker snorting cocaine. Coming out of the shadows he offers her some. She declines. The Barker tells her that Terry is too wrapped up in himself to care about her and she realizes that he has designs to hurt Terry. Warning him not to, she accuses the Barker of lying to her. He responds by saying that she heard only what she wanted to hear, he knows what's best for her and that he's been in love with her ever since the first time they met in Houston.
Wino tells Terry that his approach to Evie is all wrong and tries to instruct him. Amused, Terry listens and then teases him about his own romantic pursuits and failure with Bags and then leaves with the flowers that Wino gave him to give Evie.
In a great mood he walks to the front of his building and starts to ascend the stairs when he hears Evie laughing. He is crushed to see her with the Barker and despondently walks into his apartment.
High on cocaine Evie bursts in and tries to seduce Terry who is completely taken aback. In his jealousy and hurt he accuses her of being reckless with her life and tells her not to see the Barker again. Sounding like her father, Evie becomes more indignant. When Terry rhetorically asks her if she's going to be the Barkers new hot trick, she explodes. Terry grabs his sawed-off baseball bat and storms out of the apartment to get the Barker. On the street he finally recognizes his insanity and tosses the bat into the garbage and returns home. Bags, who's been sleeping near by, wakes up and examines the bat thinking that it is a gift from God.
Terry returns home to apologize but finds the apartment empty and mourns the loss of Evie.
Evie, overwhelmed by drugs and booze, takes a bath and hallucinates. All the characters of the street come out of her tub as well as Terry who she misses. She slides under the water and starts to drown only to be rescued by the disgusted Barker who tells his other girls to clean her up and prepare for the big Saturday night production number that follows.
Progress has taken over and a new super modern hotel has replaced the Side Show and street life. Police heavily patrol the area now.
Monte, in spite of this, hits and runs with his game avoiding the police until finally so successful, finds himself trapped by two of his "suckers" who beat him to death.
Terry, finished playing for the night, is sitting at the bar of a very posh room inside the hotel. He is very well dressed and obviously successful. But he can't shake the memory of Evie from his mind. So haunted by her, he is compelled to walk the streets looking for her.
Bags is preaching about the powers of God versus money and Wino, who is beginning to shake from the DTs desperately seeks a hand out. The Barker sees Wino and starts teasing him, finally dropping a five dollar bill on the ground in front of him. When Wino goes to take the money the Barker steps on his hand. Bags, who's been watching this, takes out the baseball bat and smashes the Barker in the chest and chases him away. She then helps Wino to his feet, picks up the money and places it in his hand. Wino is overwhelmed. He offers to help carry her bags and finds himself replacing the plastic baby doll as they walk off with her arm around his waist.
Evie steps out of the shadows and propositions Terry not recognizing him. Realizing what she has done, she hides her face in her hands and starts to cry. Terry tries to console her offering a way out. She resists, telling him to get on with his life and to leave her to the street. Terry refuses to let her go awakening their mutual passion and they embrace.
He brings her back to his posh hotel room. She is very impressed by his success. The phone rings and Terry finds himself reluctantly having to go down stairs for a final business meeting about the tour he's leaving on tomorrow. He promises to quickly return and tells her to make herself right at home. But no sooner does he leave, then Evie starts to unravel seeing herself in the mirror compared to the cleanliness of the room.
While the Barker weaves his final incantation Evie ties off her arm and shoots up heroin.
Terry finally returns to find Evie dead from an overdose and cries as he rocks her in his arms.
Shadows loom as large as the intensely lit spots that almost seem to vibrate with the rich washes of color and neon.
Faces come out of the shadows like Rembrandt portraiture.
The orchestra is not seen. The proscenium edge is raked down to the audience.
There are no racial designations in this cast. Life is a rainbow and so are the colors of the inhabitants of NEON (a street opera).
Terry----early twenties---lyric baritone
The Barker----in his late thirties---tenor/high baritone
Wino----in his middle fifties---whiskey voiced baritone
Bags----in her middle forties---alto/mezzo
Razz----in his late twenties---character voice/baritone--doubling as police and civilian
Monte----in his middle twenties---high tenor
Doper----in his middle twenties---bass
8 Whores---in their twenties to late thirties (7 women---mixed voices, 1 man---tenor)--(doubling as police and civilians)
CONDUCTOR/piano/synthesizer Yamaha DX7 2 (program bank #2 cartridge #21) for electric organ, (program "A" bank internal #5) for Tynes Rhodes
KEYBOARD #2 (synthesizer Proteus 1 for string augmentation (program #001), guitar mutes (program #173), marimba (program #180) and KORG M3R for distorted guitar (fretted instrument card program #00)
WOODWIND #1: flute, clarinet, oboe, alto saxophone
WOODWIND #2: oboe, English horn, clarinet, alto saxophone
WOODWIND #3: clarinet, tenor saxophone
WOODWIND #4: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Horns 1 & 2
Trumpets 1 & 2
Bass Trombone doubling on Tuba
Percussion #1: trap set including high, medium and low suspended crash cymbals, ride cymbal, hi hat, snare, high, medium and low tom toms, kick
Percussion #2: concert crash cymbals, glockenspiel, tubular bell ("A flat"), guiro, synthesizer Proteus 1 (program #077) for steel drums, high, medium and low conga, sand blocks
1st Violins 1, 2, & 3
2nd Violins 1, 2, & 3
Violas 1 & 2
Celli 1 & 2
Basses 1 & 2 (#2 also doubling on Fender type electric bass)