BWW Reviews: A Trippy Trip Down Memory Lane with THE RASCALS - ONCE UPON A DREAM
Last night I took a bizarre trip down memory lane (or more accurately, my parents memory lane) with The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream in concert at The Royal Alexandra Theatre. In the spirit of full disclosure I should state that I knew very little about the band going in, other than that they had performed some of my favourite songs from the movies I grew up with (such as Good Lovin and It's a Beautiful Morning).
Billed as a cross between a Broadway show and a rock concert, the production marks the first time the band has performed together in forty years and is produced by Steven Van Zandt and co-directed by Van Zandt and Marc Brickman. This is no tribute show - this is hardcore rock n roll and soul - performed with tons of heart by a group of men whose energy and enthusiasm were nothing short of astounding.
The concept is simple, it's a rock concert interspersed with pre-recorded video interviews where the band tells the story of how they came together, how they fell apart, and why they chose now to come back again. There are no less than 28 songs (which will get to be a bit of a slog if you aren't familiar with most of the music) and a series of bright and flashy projections to help illustrate the tale.
What makes this show unique is the fact that you are actually seeing the original band - no new members, no 'tribute' acts, and no lip synching. Just four guys who are performing together for the first time in four decades to give themselves an opportunity to share the music they love with the world. Apparently it was the urging of Steven Van Zandt which got them to finally agree to do the show, and then he stayed on to act as producer and co-director, helping to shape and tell the story of the 'Young Rascals' who survived the British Invasion with their unique blend of pop, soul and rock n roll music.
While the show is being touted as a unique Broadway show/rock concert hybrid, I must say I personally could have done with less Broadway and more concert. When The Rascals (made up of Felix Cavaliere on keyboard and vocals, Eddie Brigati on vocals, Gene Cornish on guitar and Dino Danelli on drums) are on stage doing their thing, it was a lot of fun to watch. These guys are loving every second of what they're doing, and their unique (and very different) personalities shine through. Cavaliere's vocals are stunning, Cornish has a surprisingly funny stage persona and impressive guitar pick throwing arm, Danelli showcases just what a gifted drummer he still is, and Brigati can still hit some very high notes - not to mention dance around the stage with more energy than I can muster most evenings.
The Wednesday night audience consisted of mostly baby boomers - many of whom seemed to know every lyric to every song, an impressive feat when you consider many of the numbers performed in the show were never released as singles. And while the crowd seemed to enjoy the lesser known tunes, the energy really kicked in on hits such as Good Lovin, Groovin, How Can I Be Sure and It's A Beautiful Morning. A few of the numbers even elicited standing ovations and arm swaying singalongs.
In short, if you're going to Once Upon a Dream expecting a Broadway show, a jukebox musical or anything that closely resembles Jersey Boys, you are probably going to be disappointed. But if you're going to relive your youth, enjoy some 'good lovin' in old fashioned sixties style or just to appreciate a great performance of solid live music - then The Rascals may be the show for you. Embrace it for what it is and enjoy yourselves - and as Eddie Brigati seems to understand - dance like nobody's watching.
When and Where?
The Rascals: Once Upon the Dream
The Royal Alexandra Theatre
On now until August 25th, 2013
Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at www.mirvish.com.