By the end of Upper Canada Playhouse’s exuberant, foot-tapping tribute to the music of rock ‘n’ roll, the audience was on its feet, cheering, singing along, demanding more.
Memories of Rock & Roll, the Chris McHarge and Colin Stewart show currently running at Upper Canada Playhouse, is that kind of show. It gets your blood rushing and your hands and feet moving.
The show is built around the life and times of the legendary “Moondog”, the on air name of Alan Freed, a Cleveland/New York radio personality who first coined the phrase, rock ‘n’ roll. Freed almost single-handedly launched the mainstream careers of black artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, and white artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Derek Marshall assumes the role of Freed, charming and enlightening the audience. In the course of the show, Marshall/Freed takes the audience from the disc jockey’s early years at WJW in Cleveland, playing controversial new beat records to a burgeoning youth audience, to Freed’s phenomenal success in the Big Apple. He “never played a record on air that I didn’t love myself.” What mattered to him, always, was the music. Was it good? Did it have the rhythm that “got to the kids?” Freed shrugged off the hate mail and threats as he mixed “black and white” music on air, and on the concert stage. The music, the show makes clear, was everything.
And it’s the music in this McHarge/Stewart production that wows the audience.
The back up, on-stage band made up of Brian Asselin, Robin Pitre, Mike Ray, Don Reid and Colin Stewart himself (on bass), is incredible. The singers they pay tribute to would be honoured that such stand out artists are “playing their music.”
What can one say about Aaron Solomon, who carries all the vocals in the show on his own shoulders?
What a voice. What a showman. Is there anything that man can’t sing?
When Solomon sings, you’d swear that it was Johnny Cash standing up there, or Buddy Holly, or Richie Valens, or even the King himself. Solomon’s voice is a phenomenon, with a range you have to hear to believe. His energy appears boundless. It’s little wonder that the audience was on its feet cheering at the end of Memories of Rock & Roll.
If you don’t already have tickets to Upper Canada Playhouse’s production of Memories of Rock & Roll, the show is sold out. However there is a waiting list: contact the Playhouse at 613-543-3713 to check.
Upper Canada Playhouse has another great show opening on November 27: the world premiere of Lights, Camera…Christmas! a holiday family production by renowned author/actor/director, Jesse Collins.
Heart-warming, funny, full of outstanding music and dance, this show might just remind everyone (as it does for tv host Gordie Roberts, played by the terrific Derek Marshall) that there just might be more to the Christmas season than “making a buck.”
Tickets for Lights, Camera…Christmas! will go quickly. Contact the Playhouse for information about this next production coming in November.
In the meantime, as Memories of Rock & Roll continues its run at UCP, a final word from the late Alan “Moondog” Freed. “Let’s face it – rock ‘n’ roll is bigger than all of us.”