The All Souls Multi-Cultural Center production of "Street Dreams" is community theater, which should tell us something about the community even if it isn't ready for Broadway. What this production tells us is that there certainly is no shortage of vocal talent, at least in this corner of the city.
"Street Dreams," by Eve Merriam and Helen Miller, is described as an "inner city cantata," which means here a series of unconnected songs inspired by the same theme: life in the city as seen by poor people. Although the producers point to a "multiracial cast," in fact all but four of the 26 cast members are black, and the material reflects what -- at least in show business -- has come to be recognized as the key elements of ghetto life. These include the pimp, the hookers, the pusher, the solid matriarch, the crooked cop, the wino, etc.
But the strength of this production is not the material but the music. Director Harry Poe and musical director Samuel Bonds have assembled a cast of superb voices, each distinct and robust. While the production stumbles at the end of scenes and in the transitions from one to another -- common pitfalls for amateurs -- whenever voices are raised in song, professionalism reigns.
Kay Granger handles a blues song ("Deep in the Night") with finesse, Patricia Bonds' more operatic tone is a fine juxtaposition to the hooker she plays, and Berlinda Menefee is a hearty gospel belter. Robert Allen, Charles Logan, Alexander Middleton III, Reginald Bouknight, Alfonzo Nicholson and Lamya Sultan Al-Mugheiny also display full-blooded talents aided well by the three-piece band led by Attrus Fleming on the piano.
A small squad of children also acquit themselves well, and could be excellent recruits for the Duke Ellington School for the Arts when they're old enough. Robyn Clemmons, who can't be more than 10, draws attention with a modest charm, and makes "Who Killed Nobody?," which would otherwise be a mawkish and melodramatic number about a child who is killed accidentally by a policeman, genuinely affecting.
The show plays this weekend at All Souls Unitarian Church, 16th and Harvard streets NW.