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OKIE DOKIE KARAOKE

RIALTO THEATRE

Friday, April 16

Powhaus Productions' Okie Dokie Karaoke was an amateur's dream, offering crooners a chance to break out with a real (and really big) sound system, in a premier venue, for an audience several times the size of your average karaoke-club crowd. And there were special effects—stage lighting, a sparkling disco ball, deft applications of smoke and, frequently, spontaneous eruptions of backing vocals and interpretive dance!

It could also have been a big joke. Karaoke's global reputation as an outlet for exhibitionist music assassination is an inviting target for the fun-loving, ever-irreverent Powhaus crew. But Powhaus seemed to play it straight and with respect, notwithstanding their characteristic, way-over-the-top, free-for-all production style. Everyone from the rankest, most tone-deaf amateurs (just a couple, really) to the clear ringers (from Powhaus' stable of multi-talented entertainers) appeared to respect each other, the karaoke medium and, most especially, the music.

It's too easy to sneer at the predictability of karaoke picks. Sure, many songs have passed into the realm of kitsch, but it's only because they were great enough songs to get over-exposed. "Love Shack" (performed both B-52s-style and in an almost frightening, tripped-out Jim Morrison version) and Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" are legendary hits for a reason: Like other Friday favorites, they share immediate recognition and widespread lyric recall.

Friday's outrageous, drunk or meek belters, crooners and screamers' choices also included Journey's "Separate Ways," Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," and Blondie's "Atomic."

DJ PJ, aka ... music video?'s Paul Jenkins, brought the crowd to its feet with Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All." Ray Charles' workhorse "Georgia on My Mind" introduced a remarkably soulful newcomer, fresh from Washington, D.C., named Chuck O, aka Charles Oakley.

The crowd was a bit smaller than usual for a Powhaus extravaganza, but organizers were surprised by the large number of people who signed up to sing. Most latecomers, including Tucson singer-songwriter Gabriel Sullivan, lost out on the chance to take the stage.

The event was so successful that Powhaus promises to make it a monthly event. We hope they consider adding Guitar Hero, to include even more of Tucson's fantasy-rock population.

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