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'Rockers on Broadway' Shows Another Side of Musical Theatre's Stars


Photos by Cary Shapiro for


Monday night's 3rd edition of Rockers on Broadway was the most successful yet, raising $1,500 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS had Broadway's finest trading in Sondheim and Kander and Ebb for Bon Jovi and Joe Cocker..

The two hour concert gave some top musical theatre talent a chance to ditch the glamor and dazzle of Broadway for a night and let loose on the small stage of Arlene's Grocery, one of the Lower East Side's hard rock dive bars more known for featuring events like "Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke Night".


Broadway vet and accomplished singer/songwriter Donnie Kehr, who produced the event with Sabrina Gordin, provided enthusiastic hosting throughout the evening. In tribute to Pete Townshend, who came up with the idea for the original 1993 Rockers on Broadway while Kehr was appearing in The Who's Tommy, he opened the concert with "Pinball Wizard", followed by several selections from his solo CD, Shift.

"I was in a garage band when I was a kid, but I'd be in the back because I was a drummer.", explained Aida's Will Chase, who seemed positively giddy singing "Taking It to the Streets". "It took Broadway to make me a front man. This is something I've just worked up, even though I've been listening to this song all my life. I'm up there thinking 'Michael McDonald should be singing this, not me!' But it's a blast doing it for this kind of crowd because they want to hear you do something different."




Wicked's Walter O'Neil, a vet of the L.A. rock scene, joyously hopped around the stage throughout his own tune "How I Feel Right Now".





Jason Wooten, set to star in the Queen musical We Will Rock You, gave a little preview with a rousing "We Are the Champions".


"I'm going to be playing Aida soon.", joked Mickey Dolenz before the concert. "They're rewriting the part for me. Changing it from a beautiful young woman to an ugly old man." But members of several Mickey Dolenz fan sites who came by to see their favorite former Monkee said he looked as cute as ever. And his hyper-energetic performance of the Spencer Davis Group's "Give Me Some Lovin'", which was followed by his classic rendition of "I'm a Believer", proved he's far from old. Since returning to Broadway as the ruthless Zoser in Aida, Dolenz has relocated to New York with the intention of becoming a Broadway regular, but he still enjoys the immediacy of concert performing: "In a Broadway show, what you're doing is locked in time. It's not as improvisational, shall we say. Which I don't mind. I have a wonderful time trying to capture that moment every night. In a rock and roll show you're ad-libbing a lot and it's more about the spirit and the feeling of the moment whereas in a play you're trying to carry the arc of a character you have to consider other people, other moments, the book, the theme and the story. But when you're playing in a rock and role concert you're basically just blowing it out and having a party."




"Dolly Parton! She's my hero! Always has been, always will be." Although there was no Parton to be heard this time, Aida's Lori Ann Strunk sounded great with Eva Cassidy's arrangement of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and Shawn Colvin's arrangement of Police's "Every Little Thing".


"I think there's a lot of potential 'Backstage Bettys' in the audience tonight.", joked Chicago's Greg Reuter after a squealing welcome from appreciative ladies in the audience. His song about the wrong way to treat a gerbil was the comic highlight of the evening.

He hasn't been on Broadway since The Civil War, but Michael Lanning's version of Joe Cocker's "Feelin' Alright" had the crowd cheering for more.




"The first time I ever heard this song was the first night I ever touched a woman's breasts", quipped Assassins' Brandon Wardell, who killed 'em with Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer".


The next edition of Rockers on Broadway is set for June 28th. Information will be available at

For Michael Dale's "mad adventures of a straight boy living in a gay world" visit

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