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BWW Review: ROCKIN' THE KEYS Pulls Out All the Stops at Centre Stage


BWW Review: ROCKIN' THE KEYS Pulls Out All the Stops at Centre Stage

"If you have to get up and move," a performer says at the beginning of Rockin' the Keys, "no one will judge you."

Turns out that's pretty good advice, because when the band kicks in and those eight young performers really let loose, you'll find it nearly impossible to stay in your seat.

Director Rick Connor put together a fantastic set list for this year's rock and roll revue at Centre Stage in downtown Greenville, SC. Centered around keyboard-based songs, there's naturally plenty of Elton John, Carole King, and Billy Joel. But keyboard doesn't mean just piano, so there's also Heart and Journey and, at show's end, The Purple One himself.

The cast consists of eight vocalists, several of whom actually play instruments during some of the numbers. They sing many times as a large, powerful group, but they also pair up, sing solo, act as backup singers and even do a few dance moves (choreographed by Michael Cherry). And that's it. There's no plot or dialogue - it's purely a pull-out-all-the-stops-and-go-for-broke rock-and-roll concert experience.

Michael Ciaccia makes a strong early impression with his rendition of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" and bookends that by headlining the rousing closing number (you'll just have to go see the show to find out what it is).

Mary Evan Giles has a marvelous voice used to great effect in numerous songs. Her lead vocal in "What About Love" made me actually like Heart for a change. During the second act she really shines with two amazing performances, first singing Jefferson Starship's "Jane" and later leading the whole group in a soaring, standing ovation worthy version of Queen's "Somebody to Love."

Rebecca Rene Kelley has many outstanding moments, including lead spots in "Still Rock & Roll To Me," a bouncing, energetic "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and gorgeously soulful "A Natural Woman."

Melissa McKim Murphy explodes into the spotlight for a scorching "You're So Vain," and later leads a warm, heartfelt "Tiny Dancer."

Javy Pagan's biggest moments come in act two, where he delivers impressive solo turns on"Feeling Good" and "Georgia on my Mind." With Rebecca, he also leads the ensemble - and the audience - in a spine-chillingly great "Purple Rain."

Andrew Poston's friendly charisma shines in several numbers, the most memorable being "If I Ain't Got You" and "Piano Man." He also leads with a terrific falsetto in an early, authentic sounding "Sherry."

Joshua Thomason accompanies himself on keyboard during his dynamite "Rocket Man," and leads the guys - doing some wonderful backup choreography - in the Commodores' 'Easy." He duets with Morgan Voke-Thomason for what turned out to be one of my favorite numbers in the whole show, "Don't Stop Believin." Morgan also excels at another Journey number, "Separate Ways," and, late in the show, Carole King's "It's Too Late."

Perhaps the real star of the show, though, is the crack eight-piece band. Led by bass player Greg Day, the band includes Johnny Culwell on guitar, Wesley Day on trombone, Kevin Heuer on drums, Chris Imhoff on trumpet, music director Chase McAbee on keyboard, Doug Norwine on sax, and Kelley Norwine on keyboard. With a full, balanced sound, they anchor the show and even get their own showcase number, an instrumental version of "Uptown Funk."

Backed by Maranda DeBusk's concert worthy lighting, Matthew Polwczuk's well-balanced sound, and a terrific tiered set, director/set designer Rick Connor earns his own standing ovation for putting together another don't-miss-it rock show at Centre Stage.

Rockin' the Keys runs through February 10 at Centre Stage, 501 River St, Greenville, SC. For tickets and showtimes contact the box office at 864.233.6733 or visit

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From This Author Neil Shurley