Review: ‘Rock and Roll’

Nostalgia revisited for Frank MacKay, the GCTC revival of "Rock and Roll" features the actor as lead singer of the Monarchs, a small-town rock band together for a reunion concert after 30 years. It's a reprise of his perf in the musical's National Arts Center premiere 25 years ago. John Gray's semi-autobiographical script is based on popular 1960s band the Lincolns, in which Gray was keyboardist and MacKay lead singer.

Nostalgia revisited for Frank MacKay, the GCTC revival of “Rock and Roll” features the actor as lead singer of the Monarchs, a small-town rock band together for a reunion concert after 30 years. It’s a reprise of his perf in the musical’s National Arts Center premiere 25 years ago. John Gray’s semi-autobiographical script is based on popular 1960s band the Lincolns, in which Gray was keyboardist and MacKay lead singer.

Like Donny Parker, the character he plays in “Rock and Roll,” MacKay moved on to a successful stage career. The other Monarchs stayed home in Muchaboom, Nova Scotia, after the collapse of the band: rich-kid drummer Manny (P. Robert Hughes) took over his father’s commercial empire; guitarist Brent (Paul Rainville) sold insurance and married his longtime girlfriend, groupie Shirl (Loretta Bailey); and bass guitarist Chink (Daniel Richard Giverin) made a career of failure and being out of work.

Observing the breakup and reunion of the rock group is a James Dean-style chorus in the form of Screamin’ John. Played with great relish by Todd Duckworth, complete with long sideburns, ducktail haircut and black leather, he is the rebel spirit of the genre that was the scandal of the era.

The witty words, the look, the sound, the music and the innocence (particularly a hilarious love scene in a convertible) are full of reminders of the 1960s. Memories and recollections of the fun the music symbolized keep a tight-knit connection between performers and audience.

The stylish presentation from a fine cast maintains a careful balance between rock show and light drama. The result is a crisply directed ensemble production that crackles with energy.

Rock and Roll

Great Canadian Theater Company; 290 Seats; C$32 ($25) Top

Production

OTTAWA A GCTC presentation of a play in two acts by John Gray. Directed by Michael Bianchin. Musical direction, Holly Arsenault.

Creative

Sets and costumes; Art Penson; lighting, Guillaume Houet; music, John Gray; choreography, Mary Lou Martin; production stage manager, Jane Vanstone Osborn. Opened, reviewed June 2, 2005. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast

Parker - Frank MacKay Shirly - Lorretta Bailey Screamin' John - Todd Duckworth Chink - Daniel Richard Giverin Manny - P. Robert Hughes Brent - Paul Rainville
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