Since 2004, the New York Musical Theatre Festival has staged bare-bones productions of more than 30 tune-fests a year, producing the occasional success like Next to Normal. As such, it calls itself “a launching pad” for young talent, a mission that begs for the audience’s mercy. So when you see a show like The Tenth Floor, a sketchy portrayal of a teen killer’s private hell in Miami-Dade’s juvenile detention center, you’re driven to pray that the show will soon get the TLC it needs so badly. It’s generous to say that The Tenth Floor “tells the story” of Victor (Justin Gregory Lopez), a 16-year-old Cuban-American delinquent, because, like a convict in prison, the narrative stays in the same place for too long. People and events from the kid’s past move through the cell like hallucinations.
In a variety-pak of watered-down contempo musical genres, including Latin and rap, Victor lauds cigarettes, tattoos, and Cuban food as his two imaginary cell mates urge him to kill his incompetent social worker (Farah Alvin). The eager cast, especially the leads, rise above The Tenth Floor‘s attempt to superimpose glee on solitary confinement, but the star of the show is a set of handheld fluorescent bulbs used by director Igor Goldin to represent footlights, prison bars, tattoo needles, a nightclub staircase, billy clubs, and, eventually, the electric chair.