BWW Review: Have a Toe-Tappin' Good Time in the RED ROCK DINER at Stage West Theatre

BWW Review: Have a Toe-Tappin' Good Time in the RED ROCK DINER at Stage West Theatre

What I expected to be an evening of upbeat music and fun-filled choreography did deliver, but not in a way that left me completely satisfied.

Red Rock Diner, presented by Stage West Theatre, is the story of Vancouver-based Radio DJ Red Robinson who is credited with bringing Rock and Roll to Canada. Five teens sit at the Red Rock Diner, listening to his broadcast, using his words and music as fodder for their coming of age; from budding romance to talent shows. With up- beat rock, ballads, and quirky one-hit-wonders that everyone knows, this story is about the songs that defined the 1950s. This summer playlist includes all the classics: Hound Dog, Chantilly Lace, Sh-Boom, Wake Up Little Susie, Johnny B. Goode, and (of course) Rockin' Robin. Every number has you dancing in your seat and clapping along.

The direction and choreography by David Connolly was not the most complex movement I've ever seen but it was jam-packed. Those five actors did not stop moving. From dancing on the bar top, performing crazy costume changes, flips, dips, and tricks; I loved watching them move. Scott Beaudin (as Val), Ben Chiasson (as Richard), Carter Easler (as Johnny), and especially Lee-Anne Galloway (as Connie), and Sarah Higgins (as Venus) lent a staggering amount of energy and talent to each role. They looked and acted like teenagers in a 1950s diner whenever they had an opportunity to show off their personalities and they kept me eagerly waiting for their next dance break. Their voices blended well, even as they walked through the audience or cartwheeled across the stage. It was a fun opportunity to see the dazzling skill these actors possess. Bravo.

So here's the catch: the story they were telling me with great music and great dancing, was not compelling. I found myself unsure of who the characters were or what the story was they were trying to tell.

"Juke-box musicals" like Red Rock Diner, tend to come in one of two packages. It's either a biography of the people involved with the music (like Jersey Boys or Motown) or, it's a brand new story using the music of an artist or group (like Mamma Mia or We Will Rock You). This show was absolutely meant to be a biography of Red Robinson - there's a whole page in the program dedicated to his life but they occasionally displayed pictures of him on the projector screens around the theatre - but his name seemed to be a backdrop for the music rather than an instrument within the story. Actor Ben Cookson played Red Robinson with youthful charm and a winning smile, but I left that theatre learning one fact about the man he was portraying; he once met Elvis. The majority of his dialogue was chatter in order to present the next musical number instead of introducing this Canadian living legend to a whole new audience.

I have to assume that writer Dean Regan wanted to bring the audience back in time and let them live vicariously through these kids, listening to Red's famous broadcasts but it didn't quite pull me in.

All that said, I enjoyed myself. Red Rock Diner knew how to appeal to their audience, pulling members up on stage and calling out local inside jokes to rile up attendees. The story wasn't what I expected it to be but the artists on stage kept the focus on the movement and singing and those were truly awesome.

Red Rock Diner plays at Stage West Theatre Restaurant from June 29th to September 2nd. Get your tickets at www.stagewestcalgary.com or call 403-243-6642.



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