BOSTON ROCK OPERA/ACME THEATRE
FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR. DEE
by Spaghettio Reverso
It’s the first night of the Mikey Dee benefit series, and my senses are overloaded by this unforgettable event. Hundreds of friends, relatives, and lovers of Mikey have gathered here to honor the man who has done so much for so many. The defunct ACME Theatr have regrouped for one night to perform several numbers from past musicals. (Mikey had been an ACME performer a few years back.) Outspoken ACME director DW Martini, dapper in a tux, emcees with drunken bravado, and he always seems to be spilling his drink.
As you might imagine, there is a lot of hamming up tonight, and Mikey gets his share of playful ribbing between songs. There are too many skits and acts to mention them all, but some of the highlights include Ad Frank (The Boy Joys) as Marlon Brando playing Fred Flintstone, and Winston Bramen (Fuzzy) doing an uncanny and hilarious impression of Mayor Tom Menino. Hilken Mancini (Fuzzy) delivers some sweet-sounding vocals, and the entire ACME crew closes out with a rousing original anthem for Mikey. I’m not sure what the title is, but the refrain features a glorious chorus of ACME performers repeating “Mikey Dee, he’s the bravest, the greatest of them all!” In his only serious moment of the night, DW Martini says, “We’re doing this shtick now because this is the shtick Mikey gave us all these years.”
Boston Rock Opera starts out with Mick Maldonado (Mick Mondo) and Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) performing “Money Talks” from Ray Davies’ Preservation. Then Peter Moore (Count Zero) sings “Senses Working Overtime” by Andy Partridge of XTC. These songs are visual spectacles. With the band and BRO chorus singers right onstage, there are between ten and twenty people performing at any given moment. T Max (The Noise) introduces the Tommy medley, noting that the rock opera makes him think of Mikey. Then he grabs his backwards guitar, his son Izzy Maxwell (Cannibal Animal and Me) picks up the bass, and the two glide effortlessly through some great echo-laden passages from the rock opera.
The night continues with covers of old favorites, including a powerful rendition of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” a mellow version of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” and three tunes from Ziggy Stardust, featuring vocals by Linda Viens and Gary Cherone. Gary also does an emotional cover of “Love Reign O’er Me” by The Who, singing most of the song with the hood of his raincoat pulled down over his face. But all in all, the songs are group events. When BRO performs a couple of numbers from Jesus Christ Superstar , I count nineteen people onstage. There are twenty-two during A Quick One While He’s Away, a rock operetta by The Who. Pete Sutton is wonderful as Ivor the Engine Driver, wielding a maniacal, bone-chilling cackle that haunts me to this day. Holly Sugar also plays her part well (as Her), ever the temptress in a red pleated camisole. And T Max, as The Mother, doesn’t look all THAT bad in drag. The operetta ends with a sweet and beautiful tune, “You Are Forgiven.” All the while, the backing band play their hearts out. The members change for different songs and there are a host of different musicians, but Matt Thorsen, Bill Bracken, Suzi Lee, and Ethan Mackler are playing most of the time. So is enthusiastic keyboardist Joel Simches, who bobs around like Paul Shaffer with Andy Warhol’s haircut.
Three bands are interspersed among the covers. The Wheelers and Dealers play some mid-paced country tunes. Mike Castolana fills the room with his pedal steel guitar, and singer/guitarist Pat McGrath divulges in his Memphis drawl that he has long been “involved” with Mikey in more ways than one. Wow, Pat! The leather-jacketed Deniros offer a lively rendition of “Rock and Roll” by Velvet Underground, and their go-go dancers earn big points in my book. Then Mick Maldonado transforms into his glam-rock alter ego, Mick Mondo, complete with ridiculous scarf, big collar, and big attitude. He’s joined by the Mondettes (also big points) as he performs the sad and memorable “Roll Away the Stone” and “Do It for the Show,” sounding like David Bowie times two.
The night closes with Beatles songs. Local producer David Minehan is a great performer. He high-steps across stage singing “Getting Better” faithfully and convincingly to the original. Then the whole BRO ensemble and friends, about 30 or 40 people, crowd together to do “All You Need Is Love,” the various stars of the night switching off on lead vocals. By the end of the evening, there’s such a feeling of warmth and of community that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it all. Adam Lewis of Planetary Group, who put together the whole benefit, is brought onstage and thanked heartily by all. As I head out into the street, I feel like I’ve just witnessed a wonderful thing–a true outpouring of love and empathy. It’s wonderfully ironic that an icon of something as specific as the Boston music scene can elicit humanity so large and universal. It’s a rare and special moment, and we probably won’t see anything like this again for a long time to come.