The Hereafter Party Press Release

Celebrates David Bowie, George Michael & Prince; Benefits The Children’s Room


Boston—“Dig if you will the picture…” of one night featuring more than 40 Boston musicians, singers and dancers celebrating three pop icons—and you’re on the guest list. That’s exactly what’s in store for revelers at The Hereafter Party: The Ultimate 80s Dance Tribute to David Bowie, George Michael & Prince at ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, MA on Friday, August 11.

Produced by Boston Rock Opera (BRO) in collaboration with Bob Voges, The Hereafter Party aims to be a life-affirming, high-energy celebration of these legendary artists and the decade that brought us some of their biggest hits. A BRO dance crew entertains, encourages and engages audience members to move and groove with abandon. 80s-themed attire is rewarded with prizes for best outfits, and a photo booth by The Secret Bureau of Art & Design gives everyone the chance to feel like a star.

Music fans of all ages and all walks of life experienced such heartbreak when—in the span of one year—we lost David Bowie, Prince and George Michael. Aptly, The Hereafter Party benefits The Children’s Room of Arlington, MA, which provides grief support services to children, teens and families.

Three supergroups and a host of stellar vocalists from the Boston music scene, plus a crew of professional dancers, perform their hearts out and leave it all on the dance floor. Michael D’Angelo of Old School Game Show emcees the night.

First up is the Bowie set with the band Heaven’s in Here, featuring Peter Moore (Count Zero) and Jim Janota (The Upper Crust). Singers include John Powhida (John Powhida International Airport), Jenny Dee (Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents, The Downbeat 5) and Tad McKitterick (Sidewalk Driver).

 Next is the band BLUTH playing the songs of George Michael with musicians Chuck Ferreira (Eddie Japan) and David J. Lieb (The Rationales) supporting the voices of Gene Dante (Gene Dante & The Future Starlets), Erica Mantone (The Revelations), Goddamn Glenn (Parlour Bells) and more.

Rounding out the night is the Prince set performed by the all-female band Oh, Sheila including Magen Tracy (Magen Tracy & the Missed Connections) and Catherine Capozzi (Axemunkee) and songstresses Tai Heatley and Jess Collins (Petty Morals), Linda Viens (Kingdom of Love) and Ali McGuirk.

Full list of performers.

Doors are at 8:30 p.m. The show starts at 9:00. Tickets are $15 in advance via Ticketfly, $18 at the door.

All proceeds from the ticket sales go directly to The Children’s Room. The show is 18+, under 18 allowed if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

In the words of the immortal David Bowie, “Let’s Dance!”

Contact BRO for more information:

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HAiR The American Tribal Love Rock Musical


Three Nights Only!
Boston Rock Opera & G-Rock Music Present
HAIR – The American Tribal Love Rock Musical
Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado; Music by Galt McDermott.

October 21st @ 8:30pm
October 22nd @ 8:30pm
October 23rd Early Show @ 4pm$24 adv / $27 day of show
Doors Open 1 hour prior to show. Once is an All Ages Venue.
ONCE Ballroom, 156 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA

ONCE Ballroom becomes the New York City home and loft space of this tribe of artists, performers, believers and misfits who find each other during the tumultuous social climate of the late 1960s. The audience becomes the lens for their stories as they hang out, get high and plan a Be-In protest against the draft and the Vietnam War.

Under the direction of original BRO founder, Eleanor Ramsay and the musical direction of Clinton Degan (Body English), the tribe and audience will be taken on a trip through time and space through the eyes of its main character, Berger, played by Rodrigo van Stoli (Aquanutz). Joshua Rajman plays the tragic Claude Bukowski and Kat Bondi (Alchemilla) is the yippie protester Sheila.

Herald Preview: Age of Aquarius rises in rock revolution
Preview of Boston Rock Opera at Reel and Rock
Cast and Crew Bios


Produced by Erica Mantone and Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller
Directed by Eleanor Ramsay
Music Direction by Clinton Degan
Choral Direction by Christina Alexander
Choreography by Sandra Sasi Marcelino
Costume Design by Linda Viens
Technical Direction by Zachary Rochester
Lighting by Todd Sargent, Projections by Joe Turner
Assistant Director: Susan Barnaby
Assistant Choreographers: Joshua Rajman and Ozzy Rivera
Publicity & Program: Debbie Catalano

Rod van Stoli as Berger
Joshua Rajman as Claude
Kat Bondi as Sheila
Zachary Rochester as Hud
Andy LeBlanc as Woof
Amanda Axel as Jeanie
Jude Torres as Walter
Destiny Claymore as Ronny
Sandra Marcelino as Dionne
Gifston Joseph as Crissy
Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller as Diane
Anjali Nair as Leata
Shanice Washington as Emeretta
Jen D’Angora as Susanna
Mayté Antelo-Ovando as Marjorie
Erica Mantone as Mary
C. Moon Mullins as Paul
Agent Judy as Mother/Margaret Mead
Tim Sprague as Father/Hubert
Miranda Reilly as Linda
Richie Hudson as Steve
Sami Greenberg as Sami
Lenore Tsikitas as Natalie
Ozzy Rivera as Hiram
Theophile Victoria as Theo
Amanda White as Scarlett (also, Linda)
Scott Fleming as Berger 2016
Heather Meeker Green as House Hippy

be-inposter-hair-v2-webThe HAIRBAND
Clinton Degan, Guitar
Pete Sutton, Bass
Kyle Harris, Drums
Matthew DiMuccio, Keyboards


HAiR was produced for the Broadway Stage by Michael Butler.
Originally produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival Theatre.
Presented by Arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.

Stardust to Blackstar – The Lives of David Bowie

A concert dedicated to the late great interstellar rock god.

TWO nights Only!
August 6 and 7, 2016
ONCE Ballroom, 156 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA.

Map and more information about the club and parking.

Produced by Eleanor Ramsay and Erica Mantone
Musical Direction By Mick Mondo, Russ Gershon, and Matt Sullivan

The concert begins at 8pm with Mick Mondo and his band Streaker joined by guest vocalists and space girls in a spirited performance of Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars.

Next, BRO is honored to present a live arrangement of ★ Blackstar ★ Bowie’s final opus, performed by an all star band and chorus under the direction of Either/Orchestra’s Russ Gershon. This is sure to be an incredible and emotional performance.

Then, because we think David would want us to dance and be happy, Matt Sullivan (Aquanutz, Cocked and Loaded) leads some of Boston music’s A-Listers through a raucous set featuring a hit list of some of Bowie’s best.

The evening features a variety of great performers including Peter Moore, Gene Dante, John Powhida, Phil Aiken, Albino Mbie,  Ron Murphy, Andrea Gillis, Melissa Gibbs, Linda Viens, Tyra Penn, Rod Van Stoli, Goddamn Glen. (see full list below)

A gallery of rehearsal candids | More rehearsal snapshots

Featured Musicians and Singers:

Music Director, Vocals, Guitar – Mick Mondo
Drew Townson, Guitar
Mark Cherone, Guitar
Joel Simches, Keys
Pete Sutton, Bass
Nancy Delaney, Drums
Ken Field, Sax
Carolyn Corrella, Recorder, Sax
Guest Vocals: Peter Moore, John Powhida, Goddamn Glenn, The Glow Twins (Nikki and Noelle)


Arranged and Music Directed by Russ Gershon
Russ Gershon, Sax, flute
Melanie Howell Brooks, sax, bass clarinet, flute
Phil Aiken, keys
Paul Schultheis, keys
Albino Mbie, guitar
Greg Loughman, bass
Jacques Smith Jr, drums
Vocalists and Choir: Ron Murphy, Gene Dante, Tyra Penn, Peter Moore, Albino Mbie, Linda Viens, Erica Mantone, Susan Barnaby, Jenna Markard, C. Moon Mullins

The David Bowie Allstars
aka The Thin White Diamond Dukes

Matt Sullivan, Music Director and Guitar
Clinton Degan, Guitar, Keys
Evan Dean, Bass
Ian Henchley, Drums
Russ Gershon, Sax
Featuring: John Powhida, Melissa Gibbs, Clinton Degan, Andrea Gillis, Rod Van Stoli, Gene Dante, Erica Mantone, C. Moon Mullins, Michelle Palhaus

Abbey Road still rocks

From the Boston Herald

Abbey Road still rocks
Music Review/by Sarah Rodman
Friday, May 4, 2001

Abbey Road, performed by Boston Rock Opera, at Lilli’s, Somerville, last night.

The evening began, appropriately enough, with Come Together.

That is certainly the theme of this week’s concert series For the Benefit of Mr. Dee (Reprise).

Last night’s performance at Lillis of the Beatles’ classic album Abbey Road by the Boston Rock Opera was just one of 35 shows held this week to honor and benefit Boston rock scenester Mikey Dee, who was stricken by an immobilizing brainstem stroke last February. It’s the second annual installment of the event and last night’s performance by a band and cast of more than two dozen people, was a galvanizing event, made even more so by an appearance by Dee himself in his first club outing since the stroke, looking good and enjoying himself.

Sung from stem to stern with loving vigor, the show not only benefited a good cause but reminded us that before the Beatles became icons they were an amazing band.

Last night’s players included superb guitarists Mick Loce and Cathy Capozzi, who captured every stinging solo and rock vamp with aplomb. Pills frontman Corin Ashley did his best McCartney as Little Richard whooo! on a down and dirty “Oh, Darling.” “Because” was a harmonic marvel sung by a dozen-person chorus. Gene Dante led a jaunty “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and Christine Zuffery sang lead on a hopeful “Here Comes the Sun.”

The entire company imbued the music with an obvious love but also a contagious exuberance that had the packed club singing along by album’s end.

And, in the end, the set took a poignant turn. As former Extreme/Van Halen frontman Gary Cherone sweetly intoned the lullaby “Golden Slumbers” and the entire company kicked in the majestic chorus of “Carry that Weight” the night’s purpose came back into focus.

While Dee has a heavy burden to bear, memories of this night should help him carry that weight for a long time.


Photos by Eleanor Ramsay for Boston Rock Opera — Above Peter Moore and Linda Viens sing Come Together. (Right) Gary Cherone sings Golden Slumbers.

Editor's Pick – SF Sorrow

Editor’s Pick– digitalcity Boston

Aida isn’t the only opera in town these days. Over on the other side of town — on Huntington Avenue to be exact — Boston Rock Opera is presenting a production called ‘S. F. Sorrow’ that’s every bit as theatrical and entertaining as it’s more cultural counterpart. It can be seen at the fraction of the cost AND it’s sung in English. S. F. Sorrow, written by the legendary British band The Pretty Things in 1968, is believed to be the first full-length rock opera ever written. It tells the story of a young man whose perfect life takes a turn for the tragic when the woman he loves is killed in a horrible accident. Unable to find peace in his life, he falls under the spell of a ‘shaministic trickster’ named Baron Saturday who leads young Sorrow to the edge of madness and beyond. If you’re waiting for a happy ending you’d better look somewhere else. S. F. Sorrow is a tragic opera and you’ll feel pretty fatalistic by the time it ends: Fatalistic and enormously entertained.

The cast for S. F. Sorrow is very strong, both as singers and as actors. Gene Dante is the narrator of the show and he does a good job of keeping the audience involved in the story being woven by the show’s songs. Linda Bean is equally good as Sally, the girl next door who steals Sorrow’s heart. Mick Maldonado almost steals the show when he storms across the stage as Baron Saturday, and I say almost only because of the great job Peter Moore does in the lead. Moore’s singing voice is strong, but what makes him so fascinating to watch is the way he uses his gangly body to portray everything from the joy of first love to the horrors of war. Director John Whiteside deserves credit along with the cast for keeping all the various elements of the story moving smoothly, no easy task when you’re dealing with a story that starts at the turn of the century and ends in the cosmos. In a wonderful case of making the most of what they have, the BRO transform the bare stage at Mass College of Art’s Tower Auditorium into everything form a rural English factory town to a World War I battlefield through an inventive use of videos and slides. All this and the show is backed by a real rocking’ band. S. F. Sorrow is a dramatic, entertaining night of theater that should not be missed.

Acting Out: Boston Rock Opera's S.F. Sorrow

Acting out
Boston Rock Opera’s S.F. Sorrow

The Boston Phoenix | Cellars by Starlight
by Jonathan Perry

Clad head to toe in bad-guy black, Mick Maldonado folds his towering frame into one of the 475 seats facing the stage at the Massachusetts College of Art’s Tower Auditorium and, looking into the lights, tries to explain what keeps bringing him back to Boston Rock Opera year after year. Is it the fame? (Local.) The money? (Little.) The hand-wringing? (Lots.) The time commitment? (Six weeks of rehearsals.) To answer these questions, he had to go back to childhood.

“I’ve been playing rock and roll since I was 10 or 11 years old, and I’ve always had a foot in the theater world [he has a degree in theater arts from Syracuse] and the rock-and-roll world. But the music and energy in theater and rock and roll are two separate things, and I’d always wanted to fuse them. I’m a big art-rock fan from the old prog-rock days. . . . I loved that era of Ziggy Stardust and Mott the Hoople, and I didn’t get to hear enough of it back then.” Maldonado was seduced by the ideas and the possibilities that visually inclined, theatrical-minded folks like David Bowie and Roxy Music (and of course the Who) presented. There had always been opera, and musicals. But this was something different.

“I looked around and I thought, this is great rock and roll,” he recalls. “Who else is bothering to do this stuff? Nobody?” Maldonado, who plays the dastardly dandy Baron Saturday in the current BRO production of the Pretty Things’ proto-rock opera, S.F. Sorrow, is also musical director of the production, which wraps up this weekend at Tower Auditorium. “I think that part of what drives BRO is the desire to play great music,” he asserts. “But also part of it is to take rock and roll out of the same old stinky clubs, bring it someplace else, and present it to another audience.”

It’s been eight years since a fledgling group of actors and musicians first staged an ambitious if somewhat, uh, inebriated production of the rock-musical warhorse Jesus Christ Superstar in the relatively modest confines of the Middle East upstairs. Noise publisher T. Max, who, two years after that production, would help found Boston Rock Opera with Maldonado and producer/director Eleanor Ramsay (he plays Sorrow’s dad and a reporter in the new production), remembers that first effort. “We had no costumes, and for props, Jesus would just stand on a chair. We did two shows that day, and before the second show, everybody got so drunk that we wound up having a drunk Jesus standing there, teetering on her chair.”

Once BRO became a bona fide nonprofit production company, in 1993, the scope, the scale, and the starpower — not to mention the sobriety — of productions increased. In both 1994 and 1996, for example, Extreme (and soon-to-be Van Halen) frontman Gary Cherone played the title role in Superstar, which proved to be BRO’s biggest commercial success ever, with 11 shows and 11 sold-out performances. BRO has also adapted conceptual works like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Kinks’ Preservation. But S.F. Sorrow, a psychedelic allegory of loss, isolation, and despair, is easily the least widely known and bleakest BRO subject to date.

What’s most remarkable about BRO productions past and present is that most of the actors, musicians, and singers have had little if any formal theater training. More often than not, they’ve just been rock-and-rollers who got curious about acting. But invariably they pull it off — even something as untested and unremittingly grim as Sorrow, a risk-taking production that’s as ascetic in presentation as it is rich in imagination. In BRO’s hands on opening night last Thursday, the cold, brutal fatalism of the narrative (which follows the life of one Sebastian F. Sorrow through all manner of turmoil and hardship, including love, war, and finally madness) was infused with poignant drama, and the sense that at the story’s center beats a still-striving human heart.

“What I like about this organization is that it’s got soul,” explains Sorrow director John Whiteside, who’s also the Huntington Theatre Company’s assistant technical director and has been with BRO since 1995. “The only reason we do this is because we love the material. We’ve got several actors who aren’t rock-and-rollers and some rock-and-rollers who aren’t actors, so there’s always going to be some unevenness. But because it’s rock and roll, a lot of the show depends on letting the audience respond, letting the spontaneity and the music carry the story along.”

Linda Bean, a BRO regular who decided to audition for Preservation a few years ago, recalls, “It just sounded like a fun, cool thing to do.” Bean, who this year landed her first BRO lead (she’s Sally, “the girl next door,” in Sorrow), is the new bassist in the Boston band Orbit. Prior to that she had been with the now-defunct PermaFrost. “I had never acted before, but I thought, `Okay, it’s a rock opera. It’s not like real opera. I can do that. I can rock.’ ”

For Bill Bracken, who’s playing lead guitar in the six-piece rock band situated behind the stage scrim, Sorrow’s his first sustained foray into theater. “It’s kind of nice being in the background. I’ve always been out front in bands, as either a lead-guitarist or the singer, and with the theater gig, I don’t have to talk to anybody. Instead, I get to think about the whole big picture as a musician — the sounds, tones, and textures of a song, and which guitar I should use.”

One of BRO’s more prominent players is Count Zero singer Peter Moore, who had done some acting in high school but hadn’t pursued theater any farther until 1995, when a friend persuaded him to try out for BRO’s production of its original Crackpot Notion. Last year, Moore played the Tramp, Ray Davies’s autobiographical character, in Preservation (a production that, by the way, received Ray Davies’s in-person blessing); this year he’s Sebastian F. Sorrow. “I got bitten by the bug.” He enjoys being able to relinquish control — even now, he says, he feels that every production is ultimately about taking a chance on the unknown. “It’s weird when you marry theater and rock and roll. It can be very, very dangerous. It can be really great, but it can also suck. Because people want rock to be sincere and theater is all about pretension.”

True enough, putting the words “rock” and “opera” together can and often does conjure visions of prog-rock self-indulgence of Spinal Tap proportions — miniature Stonehenge props and druids and triple-gatefold albums with cover art of strangely sprouting mushrooms and endless jams in tricky time signatures. In large part this explains why punk happened. “It’s hideously uncool,” admits Moore with a sly grin. “I don’t mean to get on my high horse about it, but this is the dorkiest thing we could be doing. I mean, the cool thing is to get up there and turn your Marshalls up to 11, right?”

Apparently, even the creators of S.F. Sorrow would agree with Moore on that. When Eleanor Ramsay, who began shaping the stage adaptation of Sorrow last January, met with the Pretty Things a couple of months ago (they were performing at the Middle East), the group’s main concern was that the work be performed by a real rock band — not some watered-down approximation. To judge from the vibrancy and full-bodied musical dynamism on display opening night, the Prettys needn’t have worried. BRO finally convinced the group and the Prettys consented to the production. It’s the first time the band have approved an outside request to stage Sorrow. Previously they had pulled the plug on a dance company’s attempt to do the piece.

Nevertheless, Ramsay acknowledges that preconceived notions about what BRO is — and what it isn’t — pose some challenges for the company. “The rock community isn’t quite sure what to think about us, and the theater critics aren’t sure what to think about us. And I kind of feel they’re both missing something. So that’s been a hurdle for us. The nice thing about the level we’re at now is that we have total creative freedom and nobody’s pulling our strings. On the other hand, we have no money.”

According to Ramsay, BRO works with an annual budget of between $20,000 to $25,000, most of which is spent on technicians, lights, rent, and anywhere between 30 to 40 performers. “We’ve come a long way from those days at the Middle East, but to get to the next level is difficult. This is the point where you say you have to bust out to the next level or pull back. The goal is to at least break even and give everybody a little something for their effort. So far we haven’t lost a lot of money, but we lose a little every year.”

Whiteside agrees. “We need to get better at selling the concept. When we say we’re going to do a rock opera, people wonder, `What is that?’ I think a lot of the theater audiences don’t get it, and there are the rock audiences who think that rock opera is Tommy and say they already saw it on Broadway, or they saw the movie. Well, we don’t want to be the movie and we don’t want to be Broadway. We want to be true to the intent of the music.”

The Boston Rock Opera production of S.F. Sorrow finishes up this weekend, Thursday through Saturday (November 18 through 20), at MassArt’s Tower Auditorium, 621 Huntington Avenue. Call 628-5691.

Snoopin Ground – Sgt Pepper's Live

The Boston Herald, November 10, 1995, Friday
Places; Snoopin’ ground
By Robin Vaughn

On Wednesday night, the Boston Rock Opera company nears the end of its run at the Lansdowne Playhouse. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: A Concert” brings in a healthy midweek crowd, half of which saunters in around 8 or so. (Fortunately, the playhouse’s 8 p.m. curtain tends to go up at a more slackerly 8:30.)

The audience of mostly 18- to 30-year-olds is still chatting (“You have paneling in your room? Faux wood? Gross!”) as the band, led by company co-founder Mick Maldonado in full braid-shouldered gear, takes its place on the stage riser. The show’s ensemble opener snags the crowd’s attention in a hurry. BRO company star Doug Thoms, dressed in red tails and top hat, does a grand turn as “The Barker,” leading a chorus of local celebrities through a high-voltage version of the title song.

Adapted and directed by Eleanor Ramsay and choreographed by Jane Bulger, “Sgt. Pepper” stages each of its 13 songs with simple but effective interpretations. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is done as a fairy tale sung by a nurse (Susan Barnaby) to a young boy (Patrick Goggin). The Mother (Linda Viens), a heartbroken housewife in a bathrobe, sings “She’s Leaving Home” in a spotlight as slides of daily domestic scenes flash behind her. In Act 2, “Noise” fanzine publisher T. Max gets some well-deserved laughs and loud applause for his comical rendition of “When I’m Sixty-Four” as The Man from the Motor Trade, an oily, black-toupeed bum-pincher in a polyester sportcoat.

The band meets the daunting challenge of covering one of the best-loved albums in rock ‘n’ roll history. With a conservative amount of sampled sounds and exotic instrumentation (tabla, sitar), the band for “Sgt. Pepper” gets the feel right, if not every note and tone of the Beatles recording. As keyboardist Jeff Allison points out, “If it were too close (to the original) it would sound like ‘Beatlemania.’ Anyway, it’s too hard to play this stuff exactly. The Beatles didn’t even do it live.”

Allison says the playhouse offered to extend the show beyond tomorrow, but scheduling would have been too hard for many of the players. “We’re probably going to do it again at some point. I hope so. There was a lot of work put into it for only eight shows.”

Boston Rock Opera's splendid 'Sgt. Pepper's'

Boston Rock Opera’s splendid ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’
THE BOSTON GLOBE: November 3, 1995


Presented by Boston Rock Opera.
Words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (“Within You, Without You” by George Harrison) Produced and directed by Eleanor Ramsay, music direction by Mick Maldonado, choreography by Jane Bulger. Starring Doug Thoms, Bill Goffrier and Susan Barnaby.ß At: The Lansdowne Street Playhouse, tonight and tomorrow and Nov. 8 through Nov. 11

By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff

It was uh — 28 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. They’ve been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. So, let me introduce to you: The Boston Rock Opera doing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album, in toto, at the Lansdowne Street Playhouse, this weekend and four nights next week.

The Beatles happen to be in style right now – just try to miss the ABeatlesC promos for the upcoming TV rock-doc / the “new” Lennon song / the outtakes CD releases. Thus, the Boston Rock Opera folks find themselves at the right place at the right time. The BRO is not a company to lack for ambition. They revamped “Jesus Christ Superstar,” mixing kitsch with poignancy, and staged the Kinks’ underappreciated, politically astute “Preservation Act 2.” Here, they are kicking up something that is neither kitschy nor political. “Sgt. Pepper” was the seminal progressive rock album of 1967, a semiconceptual record still considered one of rock’s finest. (And all done on a four-track!) It hit during the Summer of Love and was the confirmation of the Beatles’ move from mop-top to hippie, from pop star to artist.

But, of course, the Beatles were kaput as a touring unit by then. So you’ve only seen wretched things like the 1978 “Sgt. Pepper” movie starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton or “Beatlemania.” (Or, maybe, Paul “I was the real artist” McCartney serving up snippets during post-Beatles stadium tours.) You’ve never heard the whole thing done live, done theatrically, done up close.

You can now and should. This is a splendid, joyous production that will bring a smile to your face. It’s expertly choreographed and sharply played by the eight-piece band. The few glitches (some dead mikes) on Wednesday’s opening night were covered neatly, because even though this is a theatrical production, it’s also only rock ‘n’ roll.

Producer/director Eleanor Ramsay faced a couple of problems in putting together this show, which includes a cast of 13 and three dancers. As conceived, Sgt. Pepper is less a narrative than it is a series of set pieces and songs. And while there’s some drama – the young woman leaving her parents’ home, the deadly car crash at the end – there’s not a lot of conflict or tension. What there is, is a comfort zone of musical familiarity – these folks take no liberties with the music – and the twists Ramsay has worked out for the individual songs, weaving some together, letting others stand alone. This is pretty much the way we listen to concept albums anyway; if the songs don’t work on their own, they won’t as a whole.

Sgt. Pepper starts in carnival fashion with barker Doug Thoms setting the stage for Bill Goffrier (BRO’s resident smarmy lush) in the Ringo Starr role of Billy Shears on “With a Little Help From My Friends.” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is cast not as an acid dream, but, as Lennon always insisted, a child’s fantasy, with fourth grader Patrick Sean Goggin in a wheelchair, reading “Lucy,” administered to by fetching nurses. “Lucy” turns out to be the girl from “She’s Leaving Home” who’s meeting a man from the motor trade. (The “motor trade” phrase was Liverpool slang for an abortionist, but this does not factor in here.) “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is a carnival with everyone cavorting on stage and Thoms leading the parade: somersaults, hoops, dancing – very synchronous.

Then comes a (long) break and, well, Side 2. BRO captures the Indian mysticism of “Within You, Without You,” via Chris Mascara’s sitar and Michael Knoblach’s tabla, and Lynette Estes’ spiritual Krishna character. The dancers weave and hover, adding to the spell. But wait, no incense? “Lovely Rita,” as crooned by Randy Black, raises the only flag meter maids have ever had raised in their favor. Practically everyone is out to chirp “Good Morning, Good Morning” and then it’s on to the silly-into-somber “A Day in the Life.” The synth spirals at the end, and then the famous piano chord, parodied by the Rutles, a 22-second strike and then fadeaway.

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.