Look! Up on the stage! It’s a chord! It’s a bard! No, it’s Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals. This joint production between Rave On Productions and the Omaha Community Playhouse is currently playing in the Storz Parking Lot at OCP.
This rollicking revue of rock musicals is a rather ambitious production and hits the right notes (pun intended) for the most part. Rave On and OCP give the audience a potpourri of tunes ranging from hard rockers to soft ballads to some pretty emotional works. I especially enjoyed the fact that not only were classic well-known numbers and shows utilized, but they also selected songs from lesser known productions which really spiced up the evening.
Kimberly Faith Hickman’s direction brought some fun theatricality to the night while Matthew McGuigan’s musical direction was utterly flawless. He and his band were in fine fettle as they played with a rich gusto and energy that gave the songs a familiar feel, but imbued them with a unique vibrancy.
The show is blessed with a talented troupe of troubadours who each get their moments in the sun and occasionally blend in glorious harmony. Some shining moments were Brittney Thompson’s rendition of the power ballad “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls and Ejanae Hume’s killer take on “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent. Eric Perlstein kicked things off with the sonorous “Heaven On Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar, gave us a little Four Seasons with “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), but his shining moment was his interpretation of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from American Idiot with his sensational, soulful emoting. Jonathan Berger’s lower tenor got to glow with Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” and “Tear Me Down” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
But in a group of standout performers, Evelyn Hill and Jesse White really stole the show. Hill is a worthy successor to Brenda Lee’s moniker of Little Miss Dynamite as her talent is explosive. Hill threw herself into her numbers and stunned with performances including a high powered rendition of ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” and her half of “Suddenly, Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors.
White is a performer’s performer with his own animated performances. His tenor is both soaring and searing as he tore through the night outdoing Frankie Valli’s falsetto in “Sherry”, was shyly comforting in his half of “Suddenly, Seymour”, nailed David Bowie’s “Changes” from Lazarus to the floor, and capped the night with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
But the night’s capstone number came from Ryan McGuigan with his tragically haunting version of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Aside from his formidable musical chops, McGuigan brought a little top notch acting as he was shedding real tears by the end of the song and if you can listen to it without your soul stirring, then you probably don’t have one.
But I can’t end this review without mentioning the splendid work of Jim Boggess who hosted the festivities. His wit, warmth, and humor really enhanced the night and his introduction of each number was a real aid for those who may not be familiar with each song and show.
There were some moments of singers not having enough breath for certain notes and numbers that were fine technically, but needed a bit more commitment to bring them to that next level, but these were minor quibbles in a thoroughly entertaining night.
It’s a rocking good time and a pleasant, and socially distant, way to get out and have some fun. Take a break from these strange times and get a ticket to see this one before it’s too late.
Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Sept 20. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7pm and Sundays at 6pm. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased online at www.omahaplayhouse.com or by phone at 402-553-0800. This is a cashless event and reservations are required. CDC guidelines are being followed and parking spaces will be assigned upon arrival. Please do not arrive earlier than 60 minutes before showtime. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.
Photo provided by Zach Wagner Photography