ORANGEVILLE – Two years ago, just weeks before the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, this reviewer wrote that Theatre Orangeville was two-for-two in staging successful concert-type musical reviews by Leisa Way and The Wayward Wind Band.
Well, you can make that three-for-three.
And the latest iteration, Rock n Roll Is Here to Stay, may just be the best one yet.
Unlike its predecessors, Rock n Roll is not constrained by geography (Across the Pond: the British Invasion in 2019) or an homage to one particular artist (Early Morning Rain: The Legend of Gordon Lightfoot, 2020), resulting in a comprehensive and exciting tribute to some of the world’s greatest rock acts over the last seven decades.
Way, also the production’s creator, brings her usual energy, impressive vocals and infectious smile to the songs of female artists such as Tina Turner, Carole King, Joan Jett, Pat Benetar and Linda Ronstadt – but she also shines singing a few traditionally male vocals, an impressive feat given the level of fame achieved by the performers of those songs.
Lead vocals are also shared by fellow band members Tyler Check (guitar, piano), Adam Koopmans (guitar), Bobby Prochaska (bass), and Don Reid (drums).
Now well known to Theatre Orangeville audiences, Prochaska and Reid provide their usual rock solid foundation in the rhythm section, adding impassioned vocals to boot.
Newcomers Check and Koopmans dominate centre stage – the former with high-energy vocal tributes to some of rock’s greatest showmen (Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis for example), the latter with a virtuoso lead guitar performance encapsulating Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, etc.
Bruce Ley plays a brilliant piano and guitar, but as with previous Wayward Wind Band productions, his greatest contribution to the show is as arranger and musical director. Honed over decades of contributions to TV, movies and live theatre, Ley’s artistic fingerprints can be felt/seen/heard throughout the performance.
The arrangements are spectacular and the show provides the ideal treatment for each musical selection, including a mixture of medleys and full songs.
A couple added treats this time around are a brief name-that-tune segment featuring famous guitar riffs from Koopmans and a portion of the show dedicated to Canadian rock icons (The Guess Who, Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Steppenwolf and even a brief nod to Bryan Adams).
During an opening night performance on April 29 there were a few slip ups and the sound levels seemed a bit off at times.
Audiences might also find themselves wishing for a few more contemporary inclusions on the set list, but these are very minor complaints about what was an impressive and riotous performance from start to finish.
It’s a the perfect mixture of history, nostalgia and good old fashioned rock and roll.
Theatre Orangeville is (thankfully) sticking with proof of vaccination and mandatory masking, but nothing could contain the excitement of audience members, many of whom were eagerly dancing and singing in – and out of – their seats.
It’s hard to imagine a more fun, rip-roaring experience given what we’ve all been through over the past two years.
Rock n Roll Is Here to Stay plays five shows a week at Theatre Orangeville until May 15. For tickets call 1-800-424-1295 or visit theatreorangeville.ca.