Night Train 57: A Sensory-Friendly Folk Opera review

Dan Zanes
DC Theatre Scene

Caravanning to the stars and beyond—to a planet of flowers somewhere at the edge of the universe—is a nice coda to a long week. Even if it is a journey designed for kids. Music, after all, is a magic meant for everyone, which is what Night Train 57: A Sensory-Friendly Folk Opera is all about.

Dan Zanes, Claudia Eliaza, and Yuriana Sobrino are neighbors who convene early one evening at the local laundry line, hanging their socks out to dry and, perhaps, do a little jamming. But, this evening is special: it’s a full moon night and the trio has stumbled upon some mysterious, mystical objects—a railroad lantern, a leather book, and a map. Turns out, it’s a blueprint for getting to the stars via a music-powered train. And, these performers have music—and charm—in spades.

Yuriana, a percussionist who can turn any object into a drum, is the goofy one. Claudia, a powerful vocalist who can also slide a trombone and tame a Theremin, is the de facto group leader. And Dan is the guitar strumming skeptic, naysayer, and unintentionally funny man. Saying lines of shock and awe with the unhurried, mellow tone of an aging, but easy-going rocker, which is what he is (Zanes was the lead singer of the 1980s band The Del Fuegos and has become an award-winning family music aficionado). 

“Wow, that was a wild flower,” he says at one point, a little deadpan, a little startled, but hardly surprised, to the amusement of many adults. He gives the show that little bit of droll funny needed to keep parents just as entertained as the kids, who become an intricate part of the show—dancing, clapping, and singing along at multiple junctures as Claudia conducts them from the stage.

The use of many, many instruments (flute, Melodica, ukulele, and harmonica alongside all those others) serves as entry points to learning, both about music itself and how to be good citizens unafraid to dream. The numbers are melodic and overwhelmingly positive with simple lyrics that paint gorgeous imagery, mirrored in luscious (and slightly psychedelic—just like a talking space flower and the ethereal twang of the Theremin) projections that take on dimension as they float across the screen and hanging laundry sheets.
Read the rest of the review here