The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 9, 2014

Singing comics give voice to new style

JOHNSTOWN — The power of the human voice will be evident when Vox Audio appears at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.

Without prerecorded tracks or instruments, the group’s five vocalists use only their voices to create texture, rhythm, bass, and even trumpet and electric guitar.

Vox Audio will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. March 21 at the arts center at 450 Schoolhouse Road.

“We are a group of five lead singers who are also comedic actors,” founding member Jeremy James said in a telephone interview from his home in Orlando, Fla.

Vox Audio’s repertoire includes a mix of contemporary pop, classics, jazz, hip-hop, country and original compositions.

The show also incorporates comedic elements and audience participation and puts to work the musical theater experience of the Vox Audio members.

The group has been described as a cross between Manhattan Transfer and the Second City players.

“Four of us have been together since 1998, so that makes us performing longer than the Beatles,” James said. “At each performance, we want to keep the audience interested in what’s going on stage at all times.”

Vox Audio caught the attention of Disney executives, who hired the group to perform daily at Walt Disney World’s MGM Studios. After winning first place in the National Harmony Sweepstakes and being named Best Pop Group in America by Ed McMahon’s “Next Big Star,” they spent some time as top-ranked guest entertainers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

The group made its mark on the New York theater scene, and they have established themselves as one of the most unique, original and fun theatrical shows in America.

Vox Audio was rated No. 1 in the Wall Street Journal/Zagat Theater Survey as New York’s highest recommended show, receiving higher audience ratings than “The Lion King,” “The Producers,” “Hairspray” and Blue Man Group.

“In 2004, we were performing off-Broadway and won the prestigious Drama Desk Award for unique theatrical experience, which was won by the Blue Man Group the year before,” James said. “The award opened a lot of doors for us and we got national exposure.”

They have made appearances on ABC-TV, FOX and ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza.” Their album “Chemistry” was named A Cappella Album of the Year by the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America and was featured on radio stations across the country, including Sirius Satellite Radio.

Michael Bodolosky, arts center director, is anticipating a show the likes of which has not been seen on the Pasquerilla stage.

“They formerly called themselves Toxic Audio, but still create sonic textures, rhythmic drumbeats, thumping bass lines and searing guitar-like solos in their performance of contemporary pop songs, timeless classics and jazz-scat,” Bodolosky said. “They cover songs ranging from Justin Bieber to Stevie Wonder.”

The audience has a chance to challenge the group’s improvisational skills by requesting topics that may stump the performers.

“We get a wide range of requests such as targeting politicians like (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie,” James said. “Group member Paul Sperrazza can make any human sound.”

James, who has a degree in advertising from the University of Florida, has played opposite Tiger Woods in a Japanese coffee commercial and was the first male model on the cover of a Tupperware catalogue.

“I worked with Tiger before the scandal and he was a sweet guy who could not have been more of a gentleman,” James said. “I played his caddie and my line was: ‘Good shot, Tiger.’ ”

His debut as a Tupperware model showed him endorsing a bagel keeper.

“They wanted me to look as natural as possible and demonstrate how I would look going to work in the morning,” he said. “The only thing I could think of was Dagwood dashing off to work, so I just stuck a bagel in my mouth, and that turned out to be the shot.”

The group is touring in support of their latest album, “Voice Activated,” a collection of 14 eclectic selections.

The group also features the talent of Shalisa James, Jeremy’s wife of 16 years, Sperrazza, Michelle Mailhot and Jeff Williams.

James said the unsung hero of Vox Audio is John Valines, the sound guy.

“He is the sixth member of the group,” James said.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.

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