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'Sun' doesn't shine

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ONCE AROUND THE SUN Zipper Theatre, 336 W. 37th St.; (212) 239-6200. Through Oct. 16.

THERE'S nary a show-business cliché left un touched in "Once Around the Sun," a new musical about a struggling musician who, yes, betrays both his values and his friends in pursuit of stardom. Not even its tuneful rock-flavored score can overcome its schematic elements.

The central character is Kevin (Asa Somers), a wannabe singer/songwriter who makes his living performing in a band that plays weddings and bar mitzvahs. Said band - which includes Kevin's loyal girlfriend (Caren Lyn Manuel) - is led by his Uncle Lane (John Hickok), an alcoholic embittered by his own thwarted aspirations.

Kevin's fortunes change with the appearance of Nona (Maya Days), a pop-star diva who happens to have her own record label.

Spotting Kevin's potential both on- and off-stage, she offers him a chance to make a record, on the condition that he ditches his band mates.

Without thinking twice, he heads for the coast, where, under the tutelage of both Nona, with whom he becomes romantically involved, and a sleazy record producer (is there any other kind?), he becomes the new hot thing.

Cue "crisis of conscience" when Kevin's first big hit is a song written not by him, as he claims, but by his now-deceased uncle. You can probably guess what decision he winds up making regarding the successful but soulless direction his life has taken.

The book, written by Kellie Overbey, has few characters or situations that don't seem utterly cardboard.

It's fortunate, then, that the score, contributed by Robert Morris, Steven Morris and Joe Shane, is both engaging and reasonably credible in its approximation of the type of generic rock that might make it big on MTV.

Another plus is Somers, who is convincing as the sort of lithe pop star who'd make girls swoon.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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