Boston Rock Opera Presents: “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Dee”
– Axis, Boston, MA – 5/3/00
by Debbie Catalano
May 3, 2000 marked the kickoff to the series of benefits in honor of local music personality Mikey Dee, who is currently recovering from a serious stroke. “For The Benefit Of Mr. Dee” turned out to be an amazing tribute to an individual that has alone given so much to the local music community – with his knowledge, writing, promotions, musicianship, and endless support. Mikey is by far one of the most down-to-earth people in the music industry, and his love of music was returned in this five-day string of shows, all of which were to benefit The Mikey Dee Musician’s Benefit Trust (please see the end of this article for contribution details). Organized primarily by The Planetary Group, WMFO, and The Noise – all organizations that Mikey works for – “For The Benefit Of Mr. Dee” generated over $60,000 for the trust.An active and avid member, fan, and supporter of the Boston Rock Opera, it was perfect to launch the series with “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Dee,” a production by an exceptionally talented crew of individuals. [Please see accompanying story for more on the Boston Rock Opera on page 24.] My initial disorientation of the differently designed interior of Axis (I guess it’s been a few years since I’ve been there!) quickly dissipated once I settled in and absorbed the show. I walked in during Acme Theatre’s All-Star Comedy Salute To Mikey Dee that, though not part of the BRO, was entertaining.
The BRO portion began with a song from Ray Davies’ Preservation, “Money Talks,” which featured BRO founder and regular performer Mick Maldonado and Letters To Cleo’s Kay Hanley, who initially made her first BRO appearance in 1994’s Jesus Christ Superstar – a great beginning to the evening. But before getting into the various performances, it must be noted that throughout the entire night it was made clear that this was for Mikey. A camera recorded the entire show and often performers spoke to Mikey directly (I know that a few days later he was shown the video in his hospital room and I can only imagine knowing Mikey that he was humbly touched by this tribute while thoroughly enjoying every second of the music). Never for a minute did the spirit of this show nor the seriousness of the issue dissolve.
Spliced in between the range of theatrical emotions – both the humor and drama – and the tight musical productions and uninhibited rock and roll, were messages to Mikey, including a particularly important interval by T Max where he attempted to quiet down the noisy talking in Axis and have everyone draw their attention to a tiny, glittery disco ball he held hanging from his finger. It was here that he entreated the audience to focus all their healing energy on this ball from which he intended to bring to Mikey in the hospital. Though the gesture inappropriately elicited a misguided chuckle from the audience, T was anything but joking… to collectively bring everyone to a silence (or as silent as one could with a club of that capacity) and focus their thoughts on Mikey was a powerful moment. However you took that, or whatever means you chose to use that moment was up to you (I myself took it as an opportunity to send Mikey some prayers); regardless it reminded everyone what this show was about.Overall the evening was alive with the brilliance of the music and the spirit and energy of the performers. “Money Talks,” was followed by “Senses Working Overtime” by Andy Partridge/XTC, and then a rockin’, amazing Tommy medley featuring Peter Moore, John Surrette, Lynette Estes, Gene Dante, Kaci Carr Foster, and the BRO Chorus, and musicians Mick Maldonado on acoustic guitar, Matt Bogdanow on drums, the behind-the-scenes vocals of Gary Cherone, and T Max on guitar with his son Izzy Maxwell on bass. It was a rousing presentation, and one of the highlights of the evening.
Kay Hanley returned with the next tune, Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” along with Lynette Estes and Peter Moore on vocals, with the BRO Chorus. Followed by The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” (Brian Gottesman on vocals), “Walking Through My Dreams” from the rock opera SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things (Linda Bean, Peter Moore on vocals), and then two tracks from the popular Jesus Christ Superstar, “Heaven on Their Minds” and “Everything’s Alright.” This segment was another highlight of the night as it brought back together 1994 cast members Kay Hanley as Mary Magdalene and Gary Cherone – only this time around he played Judas, while Gene Dante played Jesus. I distinctly recall Gary’s emotional, inspiring ’94 performance of Jesus and wondered what it would be like to see him on “the other side”… he was just as stirring as the “bad guy” Judas, purveying every ounce of raw passion vocally and physically, utterly captivating in his presence. Gene Dante’s portrayal of Jesus was more on the peaceful side, a bit restrained but his role was supposed to be gentle, so it was a good balance.
The audience was then treated to a few songs by the bands The Wheelers and Dealers first with their twangy rock and then The Deniros who presented “Rock and Roll” by The Velvet Underground. Excellent job by both groups.
The BRO Chorus and cast returned with The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away,” an animated performance that with its choreography and arrangements reminded me of a movie musical. Holly Sugar, Gary Cherone, Pete Sutton, Mick Mondo, T Max, Linda Viens, Kaci Carr Foster, and the BRO Chorus played roles, while Matt Thorsen on guitar, Bill Bracken on bass, and Steve Whitcomb on drums provided the music.Lack of space prevents me from going into great detail on all the songs, but I must mention that “Infinity Forever” by Butterscott followed, then three tunes from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust then another three songs by Mick Mondo and Streaker.
Gary Cherone then once again commanded the stage with a riveting rendition of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” from Quadrophenia. The intensity of his performance and heavy power of the song was an excellent, even segue to the bright, encouraging closers – The Beatles’ “Getting Better” and “All You Need Is Love.” “Getting Better” was lead by current producer and former Neighborhood David Minehan. David’s smooth, effervescent vocals and fluent, charismatic stage presence left me desiring more songs by this talented performer.
Lending to the overall great vibes of this performance were Peter Moore, Linda Viens, and Lynette Estes, who were soon joined by the entire ensemble for the uplifting – and appropriate – “All You Need Is Love”… one could not help but feel touched at this point. Encouraging all in attendance to join in the chorus of “All you need is love” made us all feel a part of this special evening. The love for a friend, for Mikey – whether you know him or not – just emanated from the stage and flowed into your heart.I would say The Boston Rock Opera and “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Dee” accomplished what it set out to do – to honor (and entertain) Mikey Dee, to spread and create the good vibes via all the soulfully good intentions behind the performances, to bring awareness to Mikey’s needs, to raise money, and to unite all of us – fellow music industry people, fans, friends. I commend all involved.Go to www.rockopera.com for a complete list of the entire cast and crew from that evening.