BWW Reviews: TOP ROCK Raises the 'Heat Quotient' at The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs thru September 20
It is always great when a theatrical event meets your expectations. It is even better when it exceeds them. TOP ROCK at The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs did just that. Live It Up Production's TOP ROCK rivals the best production show on the Las Vegas strip with a tremendously talented and charismatic cast of triple threats, expert staging, superb vocal arrangements and strong production values at every turn. TOP ROCK runs every Friday and Saturday through September 20 at 8:00 pm and is a definitive "must see" for your Palm Springs weekend.
Executive Producer Jim Casey and Creator/Director Trini Garza have assembled a multi-talented ensemble of twelve singer/dancers for a high energy, rock concert "tour de force". The show's formula is nothing new or groundbreaking - but it has been expertly crafted by the creative team and provides one ovation worthy number after another. Ray Garcia's choreography is right on the mark - although much of it is truly "left to the imagination" because it can barely be seen through the thick layer of fog from a rather heavy-handed smoke machine. Todd and Jennifer Vigiletti's costume design is, for the most part, effective but at times borderlines on "theme park" or "cruise ship" - cheesy rather than truly hip or cool. But, overall, the look and feel of the show is right on the money.
Without question the VOCALS are really the star of this show. The soloists are generally on top of their game. The tight harmonies sizzle and the vocal arrangements - especially a few outstanding acapella moments - are stellar. The group vocals were tight, tight, tight! For the most part the cast members are up to the task of singing the rock score - although you can't fake "cool" and a few of the cast members seemed a little out of their element and had to work too hard at proving they had rock star DNA. Show highlights - extraordinary vocals on Carole King's "Natural Woman" by the six women of the cast! Both "Heartache Tonight" and "Take It To The Limit" brought goose-bumps - again the group vocals stole the show over and over again. Victor Turpin's "Desperado" was a vocal stand-out --- effortless and emotional - in fact, every time he opened his mouth it was a "moment". Derek Ferguson's "Prince" was well-received by the crowd in general but way overplayed for my taste. Also note worthy - Michael Hunter's "Faithfully"! Outstanding!
The only true disappointment of the evening was the quality of the sound. I have faith that by the time this review runs the astute creative team will have a better handle on that - but it was not good. The mix was uneven - the balance between cast and band was frustrating, as if they were generally fighting each other - there was no clarity in the vocals (with the exception of the acapella numbers) and the mix seemed very muddy overall. From my seat the bass was so strong it was annoying. It wasn't the "volume" - it IS a rock concert, after all - but the "quality" of the sound was sub-standard to the quality of the performances and was a definitive distraction and detraction. The producers have done such an incredible job of transforming a ballroom at the Hard Rock into a viable SHOW-room, and have gone full-board with all of the other technical aspects of the production that it was a shame to experience sound quality - especially in a show that is driven by the quality of sound - that was not up to par.
Despite my sound frustrations, TOP ROCK is a MUST SEE and an evening well worth, and well beyond, the price of the ticket. It is worthy of a drive in from LA or San Diego or the OC and one of the best shows of it's genre I have seen in years. Garza and team deserve high praise for bringing such quality entertainment and high-end talent to the desert and the Hard Rock kudos for providing them the perfect home. TOP ROCK runs through September 20 at The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. For tickets or further information visit www.liuproductions.com.