Rockin’ Good Time
The Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll are back at Huron Country Playhouse after an absence of eight years. It’s the follow-up to Twist and Shout: The British Invasion which was revived last summer. While Twist and Shout brought us the English bands of the sixties, in Legends, it’s 1975 and Roy Solomon (who was the Ed Sullivan-like character in “Twist and Shout”) is retiring after 20 years on television.
In his honour, emcee Sheldon Lubliner brings together the best rock and roll acts of 1955 to 1975. The theatre becomes a TV studio — don’t sit in the first row, unless you’re willing to be singled out as a celebrity: Richard Nixon and Jackie Onassis were introduced at the opening.
Director Alex Mustakas has compiled a cast blessed with amazing voices and they give their all to entertain the audience of baby boomers. Michael De Rose is hilarious as emcee Sheldon Lubliner, complete with a surf board for the Beach Boys medley and briefcase of top secret information in the James Bond selection.
High energy dancers Thomas Colford, Chad McNamara, Kimberly O’Neill, and Breanna Willis kick things off jiving to “Rock Around the Clock” and other great fifties hits. The dancers also lend their voices to many of the songs.
Gerrad Everard pounds the keyboards as Jerry Lee Lewis, singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’”. Later Everard does his pouty lip Mick Jagger interpretation to the audience’s delight.
Michael Clarke holds the spotlight as Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. He and Valerie Stanois are standouts in their duet “River Deep, Mountain High”. Later, Stanois takes us back to the sixties with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”.
Jennifer Kee brings the house down with Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”, and later gives an amazing interpretation of Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee”. Kee’s voice has just the right power and huskiness to emulate the superstars.
Lee Siegel’s rich full voice offers many showstopper numbers, including “Mony Mony”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, “Down on the Corner”, and “Signs”. In addition to his vocal talents, Siegel has a commanding stage presence. Laura Mae Nason is Nancy Sinatra with a very entertaining “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” and Petula Clark’s “Sign of the Times”.
Michel LaFleche gives perfect renditions of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Do You Believe in Magic”. He and Yvan Pedneault keep the audience in stitches with their Sonny and Cher numbers. Pedneault has a flawless Frankie Valli falsetto, singing a medley of Four Seasons’ numbers, backed by Clarke, Everard, and LaFleche. Pedneault also offers audience favourites with his soaring voice: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother”, “Bridge over Troubled Waters”, and “Imagine”.
This is just a smattering of the songs covered in Legends. If you were a teenager in the 1955-75 era, there will be something here for you.
As well as the 2007 production in Grand Bend, I had the pleasure of seeing this show in Drayton in 2008 and at London’s Grand Theatre in 2010. This year’s performance stands up very well, with a few in the cast who have performed in it before, mixed with new ensemble members. It is a show you can see time and again and still enjoy the trip down memory lane.
A final note: I was so disappointed to learn that Christine Glen was supposed to be part of this cast, but had to pull out due to an injury while performing this show in Penetanguishene. Christine is a powerhouse singer who has rocked Legends’ audiences in the past. She has battled back from cancer to return to the stage, and I look forward to seeing her perform in the future. Kudos to the three female cast members who stepped up and took on her songs in short order!
Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll continues with eight shows a week until September 1 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in photo 1, and Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault as the Four Seasons in photo 2. Photos by Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.
Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll 2015
Conceived, Written & Directed by Alex Mustakas
Orchestrations and Vocal Arrangements by Robert Foster
Original Musical Direction by Michael Lerner
Choreographed by Gino Berti
Musical Direction by Brigham Phillips
Performed by Michael Clarke, Thomas Colford, Michael De Rose, Gerrad Everard, Jennifer Kee, Michel LaFleche, Chad McNamara, Laura Mae Nason, Kimberly O’Neill, Yvan Pedneault, Lee Siegel, Valerie Stanois, Breanna Willis.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 16 to 29, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson