One: The Musical
Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, 224-4400, Wed-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Oct 1, $20-35

The art of self-promotion is as important as any of the "creative" arts, and those who have mastered it can turn anything into a Major Event, replete with media hype and lucrative corporate sponsorship. Anything. Even One.

After years of fundraising, Insight Out's One has grown from a collection of songs that local show-tune stud Wade McCollum wrote as a 19-year-old, into a truly impressive Wonder Ballroom spectacle with 50-plus people comprising the cast and crew, all of whom are getting paid thanks to a great glut of donations and corporate sponsorships. Here's a one-sentence synopsis that should have sent those investors running for the hills before their lunch meetings even began: One is loosely based on Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha and features an aspiring rock star named "Sid Arthur."

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Okay. Assuming you can swallow that fishbone and still eat more from the plate of One, you will find your stomach loading up with the most pandering, new-age cheese available. A yoga practitioner and tea drinker, Sid Arthur gets discovered by music label bigwigs while playing at a peace demonstration. His songs are reminiscent of Lilith Fair circa 1994, but somehow these industry snakes think they can turn him into a star. A ditching of what's real for the seedy world of rock schmooze ensues, replete with lavish but incomprehensible dream sequences driven forward by a relentless stream of terrible songs with terrible melodies and lyrics. The sight of respectable local actors like Andrés Alcalá and Susannah Mars, and even McCollum himself, energetically hurling themselves into lyrics like "there's always a sunrise in your eyes," is nearly unbearable. The addition of cloying inner-spiritual harmonizing is totally unbearable.

And yet, the passion of those involved with One seems sincere, and smiles burst from the talented cast's face like moonbeams. And when it was finally, mercifully over, the audience at my showing rose as, well... one, and gave it a standing ovation. Everyone was determined to love it with all their hearts. I guess it would have been pretty embarrassing if they weren't. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS

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In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30