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Mayfield retells birth of rock 'n roll

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Nov 30, 2013 06:00 am

POLISHED PRODUCTION – Mayfield Theatre's History of Rock 'n Roll delivers a high-energy revue of rock's most influential artists.
POLISHED PRODUCTION – Mayfield Theatre's History of Rock 'n Roll delivers a high-energy revue of rock's most influential artists.
ED ELLIS/Supplied photo

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Review

History of Rock ‘n Roll: Stars and Stripes
Runs until Feb. 2, 2014
Mayfield Dinner Theatre
16615 – 109 Ave.

The name of the show says it all. There’s a new musical revue shaking the stage at Mayfield Dinner Theatre and it’s The History of Rock ‘n Roll: Stars and Stripes.

The two-hour plus show is packed with exuberant, catchy songs, spoonfuls of inspiration and gifted performers at the top of their game.

The large cast of 10, under the musical direction of Van Wilmott and stage direction of John Kirkpatrick, has resurrected a nostalgic retreat to the golden era when teenagers drooled over poodle skirts, leather jackets and denim.

Starting with the beat music of the ’50s, it jumps back to the big band era and references gospel, R&B, country, jazz and a hint of blues.

Elvis. Bill Haley. Bo Diddley. Little Richard. Jerry Lee Lewis. Etta James. Tina Turner. Frankie and Annette. The Beach Boys. The Mamas and the Papas and even Alice Cooper.

The list of singers that contributed to the bedrock of rock and roll is endless. The revues’ creators not only hit the landmark moments, but also dig below the surface.

Underneath the frivolity of non-stop costume changes, parade of wigs and butt-shakin’ rock ’n’ roll, there’s a hint of the rage against racism that layered the ’50s’ musical rebellion.

There are a few tense moments when host Orville Charles Cameron describes how white singers, the worst offender being Pat Boone, appropriated black “race music” without compensation.

But while the racial divide was a dominant part of the rock and roll era, the revue’s creators treat it matter-of-factly. It is never ham-handed.

The show also brings to light names such as American disc jockey Alan Freed, who deliberately promoted “race music” and helped to successfully bridge the gap between white and black music.

The storyline of this jukebox revue is a bit ho-hum, a series of snappy songs and medleys strung together through archival stories.

But it’s the fabulous actor-vocalists and the five-piece live band that steps up to the plate and generates a big portion of the show’s adrenalin rush.

Cameron is delightful as the charming host while Michael Clarke has a knack for embodying the essence of his characters such as Little Richard. Stephanie Pitsiladis has an incredible bold, beautiful and brassy set of pipes. Tiffany Deriveau delivers moments of true soul and Gerrad Everard as Jerry Lee Lewis, is a captivating, hair-tossing firebrand.

Elvis fans will get kick out of Brad Wiebe’s salute to the young Memphis singer, complete with nasal grooves, lip curls and hip swiveling moves. Not to be outdone, former St. Albert resident Kieran Martin Murphy resurrects the older Elvis in white jumpsuit as an entertainer who didn’t take himself too seriously.

The History of Rock ’n Roll is sensuous, soulful and highly theatrical. It is also a polished production that reveals a movement that forever altered the racial landscape of music.

There are a few profound and solemn moments, but not too many. And judging by the standing ovation, that’s just the way the audience likes it.

The History of Rock ’n Roll runs until Feb. 22.


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