by Grace Treston
Rocktopia is, without a doubt, eccentric and addictive.
This description is no exaggeration or overreaching blanket statement. Rocktopia is an impressive feat from its opening notes to its final crescendo, and its six-week run on Broadway has arrived to the sound of rapturous applause.
As a show with many musical facets, there are a lot of ambitious balls in the air for the Rocktopia team. To name but a few of the rich elements being tied together, the evening features a multi-instrumental rock band, classical orchestra, full choir, and strong solo vocalists from operatic and pop-rock backgrounds.
The show combines the legendary works of Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini and more with the biggest hits of the last half-century’s rock world. Although this obvious blend of genres is certainly not a novel idea, the resulting masterpiece works extremely well on stage.
The brainchild of Randall Craig Fleischer and Rob Evan – who adds his own voice to the night – Rocktopia has been blazing a trail of fiery enthusiasm wherever it goes.
The hit show is now celebrating its Broadway debut – and what better place to make an entrance than the Broadway Theatre.
This iconic venue, as one of only a handful of theaters located on Broadway itself, exudes sophistication and history. A fitting stage then, for the celebration of classical masterworks such as “Symphonie Fantastique,” “Adagio for Strings,” and “Ode to Joy.”
The opening number is a collection of fast-paced, hard-hitting songs, expertly meshed into one continuous piece. The iconic sound of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” fills the theater, and the instantly-recognizable scale sounds extra-terrestrial – understandably, as it was famously used in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Renowned violinist and founding member of Celtic Woman, Máiréad Nesbitt then beautifully leads in to a rock session worthy of Madison Square Garden – The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” explodes through the venue. As the legendary music riles the crowd, the swell of noise from the New York Contemporary Symphony Orchestra and the voices of the New York Contemporary Choir sound heavenly.
The evening is a well-oiled machine, and each musician who graces the stage shows exceptional charisma and technical accuracy. The vocal power of the five singers (plus special guest Pat Monahan of Train fame) is a force to behold.
The three female vocalists, Chloe Lowery, Kimberley Nichole, and Alyson Cambridge provide some of the strongest control, belting, and harmonies I have ever witnessed. Their individual and combined energy most definitely stands out as a high point of the show.
Tony Vincent’s unique vocals give us the performances we crave when entering the Rocktopia world. His ability to reach exceptionally high notes with ease put him right at the fore of the show. After all, many of the biggest stars of the last fifty years have had that high-pitched edge – Prince, Steven Tyler, Michael Jackson, and of course, Freddie Mercury.
And what would a rock medley be without “Bohemian Rhapsody?” Rocktopia doesn’t hesitate to give us what we want as a listener. No matter how much people may cry that this famous song is over-done, over-used, under-performed – it doesn’t matter. It’s an integral part of this show, and it is deliciously delivered.
There’s no reason to spoil the raucous finale of Rocktopia for you, but it should be noted that each section of the glorious theater’s seating areas are utilized. It’s a riot – in the absolute best way.
Maestro Randall Craig Fleischer is exemplary in his direction, keeping the large number of instrumentalists in order. The centuries-old compositions sound perfect as they fill the theater, in renditions that would make Beethoven himself proud. The marriage of classical music with modern rock in this context doesn’t debase the age-old symphonies in the slightest.
The final aspects that top off the masterful evening are the band players themselves. Alex Alexander, a drummer with a stellar back catalog of work, keeps the pacing in check with aplomb. Along with music director and guitarist Tony Bruno, bassist Mat Fieldes and pianist Henry Aronson, all four musicians provide the dynamic sounds we need to create a true rock experience.
You need to hear it to believe it. Rocktopia is certainly one to catch before it’s gone.
Photos: Matthew Murphy
Tickets are on sale through April 29th, 2018, with Pat Monahan guest starring through April 8th and Robin Zander appearing April 23rd – April 29th. Rocktopia takes place at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, New York. Purchase your ticket from Telecharge here.