Amazing, uneven night at the rock opera

An amazing, uneven night at the rock opera

By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff, 06/30/98
Produced by Eleanor Ramsay
music direction by Mick Maldonado, Dave Bellenoit as “The Presenter.”
At The Middle East Downstairs, Saturday night.

CAMBRIDGE – As you entered the Middle East Downstairs Saturday night, you might have received a list of upcoming festivities. Not a usual practice at a rock club. The program gave the order of the songs and the performing cast members. You might have noted that ex-Extreme and current Van Halen singer (babe magnet! ex-local guy! big star!) Gary Cherone was on tap to sing two songs from the Who’s ”Quadrophenia.”

Also, upon entry you might have spied Jim Mosher playing a French horn, as the strains of the Who’s ”Tommy” hung in the air. Clearly, this was not just another night in clubland. It was, in fact, the beginning of ”A Night at the Opera,” a 3 1/2-hour, one-time-only production from the Boston Rock Opera company, a presentation of rock-opera excerpts and narrative-song snippets done in front of a nearly full house. Dave Bellenoit was your slightly smarmy, semi-sincere MC.

It wasn’t stitched together as neatly as the BRO’s full-blown, full-force productions – ”Jesus Christ Superstar,” ”The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” etc. It comprised 20 or so songs, employing about 40 players. It was a three-act production that encompassed classics from the Who, obscurities from the Kinks and the Jam, Kate Bush’s ”Wuthering Heights, ” and (parts of) the Beatles’ ”Sgt. Pepper.”

Some knee-jerk responses: Amazing. Heart-wrenching. Kitschy. Campy. Tepid. Wild. There was lust, love, wordplay, and gunplay. On-key and off-key vocals. The show was in dire need of editing – most of Act 2 – but there were moments to die for: Ticia Low’s vocal/dramatic showcase of ”Wuthering Heights,” Lynette Estes’s tour-de-force multi-octave leaps during Queen’s ”Bohemian Rhapshody,” Cherone’s ”Quadrophenia” blow-out. He entered bouncing off (ex-Extreme) bassist Pat Badger’s sly ”Billy Shears” intro, as the ”Sgt. Pepper” segment shut down.

First-set highlights included the Peter Moore/Linda Viens-led (choir-lifted) Bowie bits from ”Diamond Dogs” and the slashing Alice Cooper songs ”Billion Dollar Babies” (replete with baby-doll head and fake-dollar-bill tosses by Karen Martakos and Gene Dante). BRO cofounder Mick Maldonado presented the Kinks’ ”Ordinary People” and embraced the smarmy, Brit-rock star role as no one but the Upper Crust’s Lord Bendover can. ”Wuthering Heights” was magnificent, Low’s dead Cathy a ghost of quality to John Ridlon’s regal Heathcliff.

Act 2 was a disappointment: an anti-gun thud (”Brand New Gun”) from BRO composer Tim Robert; a turgid, badly sung ”Tommy” snippet from KrebStar and others; an impossible leap from Maldonado and company with Uriah Heep’s ”The Magician’s Birthday.” Talk about an epic that’s long been (and deservedly) buried.

The third act was the kicker and the keeper. ”Bohemian Rhapsody” was worthy of worship – elegiac harmonies and crunchy rock mixing and matching, Estes a convoluted goddess. The Wheeler & Dealers’ Pat McGrath led us through a deadpan, tragic country ballad, ”Big John.” Badger and his mates kicked up ”Getting Better,” staying on for the ”Quadrophenia” embrace of ”The Punk Meets the Godfather” and ”The Real Me.” Maldonado’s Kinks twosome, ”Alcohol” and ”Money Talks, ” sent us home.

This story ran on page E03 of the Boston Globe on 06/30/98. © Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

Live and On Record: Night at the Opera

Live and On Record: Boston Rock Opera: Night at the Opera
By Matt Ashare

The Boston Phoenix (6/2/98 )

It’s not every day that you can walk into a local club and find Gary Cherone covering a Who tune. These days he’s usually covering Van Halen tunes with Van Halen in somewhat larger venues than the downstairs room at the Middle East. But last Saturday night he was back in town for a short sweet reunion with his pals in Boston Rock Opera, an organization dedicated to the celebration of the much (and often rightly) maligned hybrid genre known as “rock opera,” and the group that gave Cherone the chance to play Jesus Christ in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar just a few years ago.

Cherone’s performance of the Who’s “The Real Me,” which reunited him with former Extreme bassist Pat Badger, was part of the three-act “Night at the Opera: A Concert Celebrating the Narrative Long-Form Song,” which featured nearly two-dozen mini-productions of songs from actual rock operas (“It’s a Boy,” from the Who’s Tommy), songs from concept albums (“Getting Better All The Time,” from the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and songs theatrical enough to be related to the rock opera/concept album (from Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies” to the Velvet Underground’s “The Gift” to the Jam’s “Thick As Thieves” to Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”). The event was something of a departure for BRO, whose past endeavors have been full-scale productions of complete rock operas, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Ray Davies’s Preservation Act II (which it’ll reprise in October), and Crackpot Notion by local composer Tim Robert.

Act one opened on a strong note with former Sugar drummer Malcolm Travis pounding the skins behind the show’s guitar-playing musical director, Mick Maldonado (a/k/a Mick Mondo), on the “Overture” from Tommy, which was replete with French horn. Travis stuck around to power through a couple of Alice Cooper tunes that came off a little too much like goth-rock dinner theater, but the evening’s first segment ended with one of the production’s highlights — Count Zero’s Peter Moore doing a dead-on Bowie impersonation opposite Crown Electric Company’s Linda Viens on a couple of tunes from Bowie’s 1984-inspired Diamond Dogs. Other standouts included a choral rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Wheeler and Dealer Pat McGrath’s interpretation of Jimmy Dean’s “Big John.” And with only a few exceptions (the band KrebStar butchering the vocals on the Who’s “There’s a Doctor I’ve Found/Go to the Mirror”), everything was more than solid and amusing enough to prove once again that bringing rock opera down to the level of a club show is a really good idea.

Copyright © 1998 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.

Night @ The Opera (1998)

A concert celebrating the narrative long-form song
Saturday, June 27, 1998
at The Middle East Downstairs
480 Massachusetts Ave, Central Square, Cambridge, MA

Boston Rock Opera presented this three-hour, three-act night of rock opera excerpts, works in progress and narrative song favorites to showcase the talents of many BRO company members and raise money for BRO’s future productions.

ACT ONE (9pm)Overture/It’s a Boy
(Tommy, The Who)
Mick Maldonado – Acoustic Guitar, Vocal
Matt Thorsen, Chris Blue – Electric Guitar
Jim Mosher – French Horn
Kevin McKeever – Keyboards
Matt Silbert – Bass
Malcolm Travis – Drums
Lisa McColgan, Vocal
BRO Chorus – Ensemble VocalBillion Dollar Babies
Monologue/Black Widow (Alice Cooper)
Karen Martakos – Vocals
Gene Dante – Vocals
Chris Blue, Charles Hanson – Guitars
Rich Cortese – Bass
Malcolm Travis – DrumsOrdinary People (Soap Opera, The Kinks)
Mick Mondo – Starmaker/Norman
Kaci Carr – Andrea
Kevin McKeever – Keyboards
Matt Thorsen – Guitar
Dave Pace – Bass
Poppy Brodsky – Tenor Sax
Nigel Matthews – Drums
Lynette Estes, Linda Viens – Ensemble Vocal

The Gift (The Velvet Underground)
Devin McGuire – Vocal
w/ The Garage Dogs
Bill Hough, Paul Hough, Matt Hough

Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush)
a ghost story by Emily Bronte
Ticia Low – Cathy
John Ridlon – Heathcliff, Keyboard
Bill Hough – Edgar
Billy O’Brien – Guitar
Jason Redi – Bass
Mark Manczuk – Drums

Big Brother
Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family
We are the Dead
(1984, released as Diamond Dogs, David Bowie)
Peter Moore – Winston
Linda Viens – Julia
Mick Maldonado – Keyboards
Chris Blue – Electric Guitar
Chris Burrage – Bass
Nigel Matthews – Drums
BRO Chorus – Ensemble Vocal

ACT TWO (10:15pm)

Brand New Gun (Marksmen, songs by Tim Robert,
dialogue by David Geissler)
scene directed by David Geissler
Peter Moore – Norman
Ticia Low – Kate
Jim McKay – Ray
Tim Robert – John
George Hall, Tom Scanlon – Guitars
Margaret Weigel – Bass
Ethan Meyer – Drums

There’s A Doctor I’ve Found/Go to the Mirror
(Tommy, The Who)
Soylent Green (is people!)
(Soylent Green, the Rock Opera, KrebStar)
Jess Walker – Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Shaw – Guitar, Vocals
Lance Blair – Bass, Vocals
Mike Demers – Drums

The Magician’s Birthday (Uriah Heep)
Mick Mondo – Narrator/Magician
Gene Dante – Evil Sorcerer
Kaci Carr The Good Witch
BRO Chorus – The Witches
Chris Blue – The Zombie, Guitar
Matt Thorsen – Guitar
Dave Pace – Bass
Nigel Matthews – Drums
Rick Shaw – Kazoo

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (Russel)
Lynette Estes – Lead Vocal
Matt Thorsen -Guitar
Chris Blue – Bass
Wright Maney – DrumsRun Joey Run (Perricone/Vance)
Lynette Estes – Lead Vocal
Chris Blue – Guitar
Chris Burrage – Bass
Wright Maney – Drums
Gene Dante, Karen Martakos, Lisa McColgan – vocals

Meet ‘n Greet
Where Were You Then?
(Mondo’s House of Wax, Mick Mondo)
Mick Mondo – Lead Vocal
BRO Chorus – Ensemble Vocals
Matt Thorsen, Chris Blue – Guitars
Dave Pace – Bass
Nigel Matthews- Drums

Thick as Thieves
Burning Sky
Saturday’s Kids (Setting Sons, The Jam)
Matt Thorsen – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Dave Pace – Bass
Nigel Matthews – Drums, Vocals

ACT THREE (11:45pm)

Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
Lynette Estes – Lead Vocal
BRO Chorus – Ensemble Vocal
Mick Mondo – Conductor
Chris Blue, George Hall -Guitars
Kevin McKeever – Keyboards
Matt Silbert – Bass
Nigel Matthews – Drums

Big John
Pat McGrath – Lead Vocal
w/ The Wheelers & Dealers
BRO Chorus – voacls

Getting Better All the Time (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles)
Pat Badger – Bass, Vocals
Mick Maldonado, Matt Thorsen – Guitars, Vocals
Nigel Matthews – Drums

Punk Meets the Godfather
The Real Me
(Quadrophenia, The Who)
Gary Cherone – Vocals
Pat Badger – Bass, Vocals
Mick Maldonado, Matt Thorsen – Guitars, Vocals
Nigel Matthews, Mike Mangini – Drums

Sweet Transvestite
(The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien)
Gene Dante – Frankenfurter
BRO Chorus – Transylvanians
Mick Maldonado, Chris Blue – Guitar
Kevin McKeever- Keyboards
Chris Burrage – Bass
Poppy Brodsky – Tenor Sax
Nigel Matthews – Drums

Alcohol (The Kinks)
Mick Mondo – Vocal, Keyboard

Money Talks (Preservation Act II, The Kinks)
Mick Mondo- Mr. Flash
Tim Robert – Spiv
BRO Chorus – Floosies and Spivs
Matt Thorsen – Guitar
Dave Pace – Bass
Kevin McKeever- Keyboards
Nigel Matthews – Drums

Production Credits:
Music Direction: Mick Maldonado
Producer: Eleanor Ramsay
Stage Manager: Melisa Dowaliby
Lighting: Harry Melanson
Sound: Mike Higgins
Dresser: Elizabeth Hope

The BRO Chorus:
Lynette Estes, Gene Dante, Karen Martakos, Peter Moore, Linda Viens,Kaci Carr, Rick Shaw, Lisa McColgan, Tim Robert, Eleanor Ramsay, Ticia Low, Jess Walker

Special Thanks: The Massachusetts College of Art; Rick McDermott; Joe Gallo; Jane Bulger; Chachi and WBCN