BWW Review: BILLY MCGUIGAN'S ROCK TWIST at Omaha Community Playhouse is Back, Bigger, and Better
Preview night for Billy McGuigan's ROCK TWIST at the Omaha Community Playhouse was a rockin' success. A house filled with very excited fans were treated to two hours of some of the biggest hits from over the decades. Opening with Electric Light Orchestra's "Evil Woman," Billy put everything he had and more into high octane performance.
Billy quipped that he is famous in Canada, which sparked a running joke throughout the concert. This concert is Big. Better than Before. It's a full production of great music, amusing anecdotes, and interaction with the audience and musicians.
And what musicians! Among them were those who have been with Billy throughout his career, which was at 492 performances as of preview night. Each has an impressive pedigree. Drummer/percussionist "Doc" Tomm Roland received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. Others teach aspiring musicians, including lead guitarist Max Meyer, trombone man Patrick Peters, violinist Melissa Holtmeier, and saxophonist Willie Karpf. Some are local celebrities such as Doyle Tipler on trumpet and Stan Harper on alto sax/clarinet. Be sure to read through the bios in the program.
In addition to this incredible band of musicians which includes his brothers Ryan and Matthew, Billy is backed on vocals by crowd favorite Tara Vaughan on keys and newcomer Natalie Thomas. These two powerhouse women are accomplished performers in their own right. Tara has just released her third CD, "Dandelion Wine." Natalie is lead vocalist for a popular Omaha band called eNVy. Tara revealed her mellow, sultry sound in LuLu's hit from the Sidney Poitier movie, "To Sir With Love." Natalie showed her rocker chops in "Proud Mary." Even Music Director Steve Gomez got a solo. Well. Wait until you hear it
These solos added interest to the lineup of songs by Billy, but they also gave the hardworking performer a bit of a breather and a chance to change his shirt, because this guy is nonstop!
Where does this man get his energy? Billy is a turbo engine. He is an Energizer Bunny. He worked up a sweat by the third song and kept himself dry with several costume changes. His energy is contagious. It is impossible to sit still. Feet tap. Heads bob. And we sing along to all the greats by the Beatles, Elton John, the Doors, Billy Joel, and yes, even LuLu.
Sometimes Billy slowed it down with a melodic strings-embellished version of the Beatles' "Yesterday," and a duet with Tara on Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." But whether Billy is crooning or rocking, he puts his heart into it, sells it, and we buy it.
Two of my favorite numbers were the Pentatonix-like treatment of Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time" with Billy, Tara, Natalie, Ryan and Matthew providing all the instrumental sounds except for Tomm Roland giving a light touch on drums, and the Buddy Holly ballad, "True Love Waits," which started with a soft acoustic sound and then built to full band. Billy showed off his guitar prowess, proving he can keep up with the amazing Max Meyer.
Billy talked about performing on Celebrity Cruise ships, and after seeing this show, I would be tempted to book a cruise just to see his band rocking on the waves.
Showing AUG 2-18, 2019 at Omaha Community Playhouse.
Photo courtesy of Omaha Community Playhouse