The Rascals – Once Upon A Dream

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Because I don’t read anything about a show before I go see it (I prefer to read about what I was supposed to think after the fact) I thought this was a musical about The Rascals.  I also thought – Whaaaaaaat???

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this show is not ABOUT The Rascals.  It IS The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere on keyboard and vocals, Eddie Brigati on vocals, Dino Danelli on drums and Gene Cornish on guitar, over 40 years after they released their first record.  And let me tell you:  the joint was jumpin’.

The show started with an announcement that “If you have a cell phone or camera you can record, or take pictures or do whatever the F**k you want!!”

The second the curtain rose to reveal the band (after an unnecessary prologue, but more about that later) the audience was roaring.  Literally.  Even though the Richard Rogers has had its share of musicals – Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees, Nine – I don’t think this house has had anything quite like this: a rock concert for people who love sweet rock and roll and who treasure an evening where they don’t have to act their age.

The guy sitting in front of me was on oxygen, okay?  By the end of the show he was standing and cheering.

Most of the audience was more informed than I, who only remember the hits.  They were rockin’ humming and bouncing in their seats and gave the Rascals three standing ovations before the close of the show when we all went a little loopy. Good Lovin’ brought us all to our feet – including that supposed curmudgeon Lewis Black.  Ditto Got To Be Free.  How Can I be Sure brought shouts of “You’ve still got it babaaaaay!!”  And of course they do.

The vocals don’t seem to have changes one little bit.  Gene Cornish is having more fun than a hound in a butcher shop and uses 7 different guitars throughout the evening.  Dino Dinelli on drums has talents that have aged like a good wine.

In short, this is still a band that kicks ass.

As to the concept of the show itself, I am baffled.  The only thing you need up there is the band.  They hold the space just fine, thank you very much.  So why Steven Van Zandt decided to add visuals in the form of psychedelic projections that are distracting, and a “bio-movie” that is embarrassing is beyond my comprehension.  The only projections that works are the animation sequence by my friend Flash Rosenberg and the great archival footage.  But the psychedelic images are so boring they remind you of how much of an idiot you were when you were on drugs and thought all that crap meant something.

The present day interviews with the band aren’t half bad either.  They do give some context to the story:  Cavaliere, Brigati and Cornish met when they joined Eddie’s brother who was in Joey Dee and the Starlighters.  When they left to do their own thing they added Danelli, and on the first day they rehearsed together they went through over twenty songs.  They were on fire.     From then till now there were great successes – like in being signed by Sid Bernstein, declining Phil Spector’s advances, signing with Atlantic who let them produce themselves.  And oh yeah, being added to the bill for the Beatles Shea Stadium concert.

These guys all came up inside the business.  They came from old school rock n’ roll, playing the Peppermint Lounge and even playing with Jimi Hendriks, back when he was Jimmy James, wore fancy jackets and had his hair processed.  Just as they began to sprout their musical wings as a band, the entire music scene was changing.  It was the second half of the 1960’s when rock, and folk, and soul music were overlapping.  The result would be something else entirely.

The Rascals shot to #1 with Good Lovin’ in 1966 and never looked back.  They found their style and stayed with it, becoming a rock band with soul.  But it was a dream come true for too short a time.  They succumbed to uncertainty and lack of guidance, and in 1970 they fell apart.  They became seriously estranged.  It took 40 years as well as the persistence of Van Zandt and his wife Maureen to get them back together.  With this concert they are healing their relationship with one another and confirming that their music is part of our DNA.

It’s fantastic to hear them again and be reminded that in the tumult of growing up these guys produced music that always, always, always made me feel good.  I have carried it with me and still listen to it when I want a lift.  What a thrill to experience it in person.

Can’t get too much of that good feelin’.  No siree.  Bravo, Gents!

THE RASCALS – Once Upson A Dream  – Through May 5, 2013

Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St., Ticket Price: $27-$137

Ticketmaster: 877-250-2929; The Rascals

Tulis McCall

Author: Tulis McCall

For my money, the theatre is up there in the ten top reasons to be human. I leave my home and go sit in a dark room with complete strangers and watch actors do their stuff because I want to be inspired. I’m asking to be involved. I’m volunteering to be led down any old path they choose as long as they don’t let go of my hand. And if I see a show, and it is NOT so very good – I will try to divert you, because I don’t want you to come to the temple when the preaching isn’t up to snuff. I will bar the door, I will swing from rafters, I will yell FIRE just to set your feet on a path that does not lead to disappointment. Do something different with your evening I will say. Save your money for dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in months because you are too frigging busy. Go take a walk with your dog or your child or your significant other. Go to bed early, I will say. Don’t come to the theatre when it is less than it can be. I’m an usher snob, and that’s all there is to it.

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