Rock Twist and Shout

It’s rock numbers done with a big band flair.  It’s big band numbers done rock style.  It’s Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist and it is rocking out at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

If there is anyone out there who harbors any doubts about the talent of Billy McGuigan, they will surely be dispelled after watching this show.  Putting it simply, this man is a musical and performing savant.  There isn’t a genre of music he can’t play.  He has stage presence for which directors would kill.  He has a charming affability which makes you feel like an old friend spending an evening at his house.

Even I, who has had the pleasure of listening to Billy’s shows pretty regularly over the past 15 years, was completely blown away by this production.  It has something for everyone.  Do you like rock?  Well, you’ll get to hear the Beatles, the Who, the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Billy Joel.  Is adult contemporary/jazz your bag?  You’ll hear some Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr.  And each song has a unique arrangement that will make it seem like you’re hearing it for the first time all over again.

From the opening number of Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”, Billy had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.  His pure tenor soared throughout the night as he sang renditions of “Yesterday”, “Luck be a Lady”, “God Only Knows”, “Time Won’t Let Me”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Pinball Wizard” and a cover of “Here, There, and Everywhere” supported only by bass and percussion that was so moving that I started to tear up a bit.

Billy was just as adept keeping the audience’s attention between numbers with a low key storytelling style as he shared stories behind the numbers, regaled us with some humorous anecdotes, and told a couple of tender tales about his career and life.

Every good front man needs an excellent band and McGuigan’s band brought it and then some.  Steve Gomez’s bass hummed all night long and his musical direction was so precise and on target.  Andrew Janak stunned on the tenor saxophone and I tip my hat to him for arranging all of these sensational numbers.  Max Meyer’s lead guitar work was the feat of a prodigy.  Tomm Roland’s drum work never missed a beat.  Omaha legend, Doyle Tipler, never fell flat with his trumpeting.  Patrick Brown shined on the alto sax and Patrick Peters’ trombone playing couldn’t have been any tighter.  Tara Vaughan’s piano playing is always a treat for the ears and her rich alto got its own moment to shine with a medley of “Downtown” and “To Sir, With Love”.  Backup vocals were supplied by the multitalented trio of Matthew and Ryan McGuigan and Jessica Errett who dazzled in their own featured songs, “634-5789” and “We’re Going to a Go-Go”.  And I’d like to give special notice to Steve Wheeldon whose lighting was so atmospheric and enhanced every song.

To be frank, when I first heard about Billy’s new show I thought he had taken on a real challenge for himself by putting new twists on old classics.  But he proved why he is Omaha’s premiere entertainer with this brand new show that will undoubtedly be another roaring success.  My only disappointment was that there wasn’t another hour to this show.  Or two.  Perhaps five.  Well, you get the idea.  This show only has a limited run, so get your tickets fast and prepare yourselves for an amazing time.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist plays at the Omaha Playhouse from July 12-23.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40 or $35 for groups of 12 or more.  For tickets, contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Billy’s Got a Brand New Show!!

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Omaha Community Playhouse Summer Show
Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist On Sale April 14

 

Omaha, Neb.— The Omaha Community Playhouse will present the world premiere of Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist July 12 – 23, 2017 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Tickets for Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist go on sale to the public Friday, April 14 at 10 a.m. through the OCP box office.

Omaha favorite, Billy McGuigan, returns to the Omaha Community Playhouse stage with this new show. He is joined by the Omaha-based Steve Gomez Band to present rock hits with a big band sound and big band standards with a rock and roll sound.

Billy McGuigan as you’ve never seen him before. Classic rock tunes with a big band twist; big band standards with a rock and roll twist. Backed by a full horn section and an all-star lineup of Omaha’s finest musicians, Billy’s brand new show will have Playhouse audiences rocking like never before. Frank Sinatra? Check. The Beatles? Check. Harry Connick, Jr? Check. Billy Joel? Check! Fresh re-arrangements of rock and jazz standards performed as only Billy can. It’s rock with a twist.

Production:      Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist

Show dates:     July 12 – 23, 2017; Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m.

Tickets:            At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets are $40. Tickets are $35 for groups of 12 or more.

Location:          Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

The McGuigans Will be Rocking ‘Eight Days a Week’ at OCP

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The holidays will soon be upon us and the populace will be thinking of turkeys, Christmas trees, and Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience.

The supercharged concert series starring the McGuigan Bros (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) begins its annual run at the Omaha Community Playhouse on November 25 and tickets are now on sale and selling fast.

If you have never seen Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience, then you truly don’t know what you’ve been missing.  The McGuigans and their band (Tara Vaughan, Jay Hanson, and Rich Miller) present a night of high energy fun and entertainment with the music of the Beatles.  Even better, YOU get to pick the music.

This is no mere tribute band.  The music of the greatest rock group in history is augmented by the unique energy of the McGuigans and makes for an incredible night of good old-fashioned rock and roll.

Rock out to the classics or request an obscure number.  It doesn’t matter because this band knows them all.  But the choices are in YOUR hands.  It’s never the same show twice!

Buy a ticket and discover why the McGuigans and their band have been the city’s best musical act for the past 9 years and show no signs of slowing down.  If you love the Beatles, if you love rock and roll, if you love full blast fun, then go see Omaha’s hit holiday tradition, Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse from Nov 25-Dec 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thursday-Sat and Sundays at 6:30pm.  The Sunday show on November 27 will be a 2pm matinee performance.  Tickets cost $40.  On December 31, a double bill will be played at 7pm and 10pm.  Tickets for the 7pm show will be $50 and $75 for the 10pm show.  For tickets contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

You’ll Wish this Show Would ‘Not Fade Away’

In the fall of 2002, a phenomenon was born.  The Omaha Playhouse presented Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story starring Billy McGuigan.  Fueled by his dynamic performance as the iconic singer, the musical proceeded to smash Playhouse box office records and set Billy on a course as a full time professional performer.  Since that fateful fall, Billy McGuigan has taken his interpretation of Buddy Holly from coast to coast with nearly 2,000 performances and setting new box office records at 6 theatres.  Now he returns to where it all began with Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

The show’s title sums up the show perfectly.  It is an experience and must be experienced in order to understand its grandeur.  Describing this show taxes my wordsmithing to the limit.  To say it is impressive seems a severe understatement.  Explosively awesome is the best description I can come up with and even that seems to fall just a little short.  To give you an idea of the might of this show, it received a standing ovation. . .after the first act.

McGuigan shows himself to be a true auteur with this show as he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in it.  It is neither a play nor a jukebox musical.  It is a character concert.

McGuigan does not play Buddy Holly.  No, no, no.  He BECOMES Buddy Holly.  I was blown away by his performance as Holly when I saw Buddy’s original run nearly 14 years ago, but what Billy does with the character now nearly defies belief.  He has every tic and nuance of Holly down to a science:  voice, posture, mannerisms, singing style, you name it.  But he still imbues the performance with an energy that is distinctly his own which makes the character of Holly and the music he plays just that much better.

And let’s understand something.  McGuigan is one polished musician.  His execution of Holly’s songs was deadly accurate and he ran through the classics such as True Love Ways, Rave On, Oh, Boy, and That’ll Be the Day.  But, with ease, he also sailed through many obscure Holly numbers such as Lonesome Tears, Modern Don Juan, and Handsome Brown-Eyed Man.  And he does it all with a lively and infectious energy as he bantered with the audience and got everybody clapping and singing along.

A front man is only as strong as his backup band and the Raybandits brought it all and more with a night of surefire musicianship and their own shining moments.

The flawless rhythm of Rich Miller’s drumming will have you thinking he is the second coming of Ringo Starr.  Miller especially amazes with a solo number where he turns a simple cardboard box into a masterful piece of percussion work.  Jay Hanson’s lead guitar sizzled all night long.  Tara Vaughan’s fingers danced along the piano keys and her sultry alto kept the audience rapt during a performance of Willie Nelson’s Crazy.  The acoustic guitar and bass work of Ryan and Matthew McGuigan were second to none.  Ryan McGuigan awed the audience as his John Lennonesque voice soared in Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba and Matthew McGuigan revved up the crowd with Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode.

The title of this review may be a little more prophetic than you think.  Pictures of Billy McGuigan’s history as Buddy Holly were set all over the theatre and one telling photo was listed simply as “The End 16/17”, suggesting that Billy may be retiring the role of Buddy Holly once and for all.  If this be the case, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to get a ticket to catch the greatest interpreter of Buddy Holly before it’s too late.  As the opening night performance was nearly sold out, odds are high that this run is going to run out of tickets mighty quick.  Do not delay and prepare yourself for a night of colossal fun.

Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience plays at the Omaha Playhouse through June 26.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40 and can be obtained through the Playhouse’s web site at www.omahaplayhouse.com or call the Box Office at 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Billy McGuigan Returns to the Playhouse as Buddy Holly

Since 2002, Billy McGuigan has taken his interpretation of Buddy Holly from coast to coast achieving critical acclaim and setting box office records around the nation.  Now Billy returns to where it all began when he and his Rave On band bring Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience back to the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Prepare yourself for a high energy character concert as Billy McGuigan entertains you as the legendary lead man for the Crickets with hits such as That’ll Be the Day, Not Fade Away, True Love Ways, Peggy Sue, and more!!  Billy’s Buddy will also pay tribute to his fellow luminaries:  Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry.

Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience runs at the Omaha Playhouse from June 10-26.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40.  For tickets contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit the website at http://www.omahaplyahouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Midtown Crossing Tunes up for Jazz on the Green

OMAHA, NEB. – (May 11, 2016) – Omaha Performing Arts kicks off a cool summer as it again presents Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing. The free outdoor concert series runs six consecutive Thursdays, from July 7 to August 11, 2016, in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. on the permanent stage of The Pavilion at Turner Park. The lawn is open beginning at 5:00 p.m. every Thursday. This is the sixth year Omaha Performing Arts has presented the popular series, sponsored this year by Mutual of Omaha.

Omaha Performing Arts has partnered with the Blues Society of Omaha and Omaha Ballroom to present free pre-show entertainment. A band from the Blues Society of Omaha’s non-profit youth artist development program, BluesEd, will perform before the start of three Jazz on the Green performances. An instructor from Omaha Ballroom will lead a pre-show dance lesson at two of the performances. Instructors at Omaha Ballroom, under the direction of Elizabeth Edwards, have been teaching dance for more than a decade. The August 11 pre-show entertainment will be the Brownell -Talbot School’s Raider-Blues Jazz Combo. This year’s Jazz on the Green will feature the following groups:

Blue House with the Rent to Own Horns opens this season’s Jazz on the Green, Thursday, July 7. Members of the band have performed with musicians and groups from Ray Charles to Maroon Five. From a twist of blues to powerful horn interludes this group separates itself from other blues bands. Pre-show entertainment from BluesEd is by their “Us & Them Blues Band.” The July 7 concert is sponsored by Mutual of Omaha.

Esencia Latina will perform July 14. There are twelve musicians and vocalists who form the core group of this Omaha-based band. Their mission is to share Salsa and other Latin music with Omaha, the Midwest and beyond. Pre-show Salsa Lessons will be taught by Omaha Ballroom. This week’s concert is sponsored by Fran and Rich Juro.

July 21 Cha Wa will perform. This New Orleans-based band is known for its red-hot combination of two of that city’s best traditions, Mardi Gras Indians and street level funk music.

BluesEd presents “Dilemma” as the pre-show entertainment.

Billy McGuigan and the Omaha Big Band perform Thursday, July 28. This popular performer, the creator of three international touring shows including Rave On!, Yesterday and Today and Rock Legends, brings the big band sound to Jazz on the Green. Swing Dance lessons will be available from Omaha Ballroom during the pre-show. This concert is sponsored by Beardmore Subaru.

The August 4 Davina and the Vagabonds performance will feature musical influences ranging from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits. The show will be filled with New Orleans charm and Memphis soul swagger. BluesEd will present “Voodoo Vinyl” as pre-show entertainment. This concert is sponsored by C & A Industries, Inc.

The final Jazz on the Green concert is Saxophone Superstar Kim Waters, Thursday, August 11. This creative musician-composer-record producer has had 16 Top 10 and 14 #1 singles, 4 #1 CDs in his 25-year career of distinctive, soul-imbued melodies and seductive grooves. Brownell -Talbot School’s Raider-Blues Jazz Combo will provide the pre-show entertainment. This concert is sponsored by Nebraska Medicine.

All Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing concerts are free to the public, with no reservations or tickets needed. Seating in the center bowl of Turner Park, the grassy circular area with a direct view of the stage, will be permitted at 5:00 p.m., though the green spaces outside the bowl will be available before 5. Pre-show entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. and the headlining performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Midtown Crossing offers convenient and secure parking for more than 3,000 vehicles. Two parking garages are easily accessible from 33rd, Farnam and Harney streets. In both garages, the first three hours are free, and visitors pay only $1 for each hour thereafter.

For the convenience of concert attendees, Midtown Crossing restaurants will be set up in Turner Park, selling grilled fare, concessions and beverages each week.

The sponsor for Omaha Performing Arts presents Jazz on the Green at MidtownCrossing is Mutual of Omaha. Individual concert sponsors are Beardmore Subaru, C&A Industries, Inc., Fran and Rich Juro, Mutual of Omaha and Nebraska Medicine. Media sponsors for this year’s series are the KETV, KIOS and Omaha World-Herald. For more information about the series and the artists, visit JazzOnTheGreenOmaha.com.

 

The Beatles Would Pay to See the McGuigans

This is the story of three boys who were bestowed the great gift of love for the Beatles by their father.  When their father died tragically young, playing the music of their father’s favorite band helped bring closure and healing.  Now these three boys have taken this great gift and pay tribute to both their father and the greatest band in the history of rock with Yesterday and Today, an interactive Beatles experience currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Let’s get one thing straight right now.  Though Billy McGuigan and his brothers, Ryan and Matthew, pay tribute to the Beatles with this all request show, they are not a Beatles tribute band.  They don’t wear wigs or adopt Liverpudlian accents.  What they do is present the music of a legendary group that sounds distinctly familiar yet is enhanced by an original feel and energy that is uniquely the McGuigans.

I am a Beatles nut and I make no bones about it.  I own all of their albums, am well versed in their history, and am chock full of obscure knowledge that makes me a devastating Beatles Trivial Pursuit player.  Needless to say, I hold those who cover Beatles songs to exceedingly high standards and the McGuigans and their band shattered those standards and then some in a high energy two plus hour concert that literally had us dancing in the aisles.  If you love the Beatles, you will love this show.

What makes this show so enjoyable is not only the great music, but the incredible camaraderie between the three brothers.  Like the Beatles, the McGuigans have a natural banter with each other and the audience that is full of fun and wit.  These guys can also play.  All three men are multi-instrumentalists with precise musicianship and a minute and exact understanding of all, and I stress ALL, of the Beatles’ work.  They play the well known numbers at your request, but they also know the lesser known numbers as demonstrated with performances of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and, for the first time in their 8 year history, Baby, You’re a Rich Man which blew the roof off.

Billy McGuigan is the emcee of the show.  He’s also a natural showman and raconteur who revels in the energy of a live crowd and is able to take it and redirect it into the music and back to the audience with something more.  He’s also got a mighty rock tenor voice that shone in numbers such as Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and I Saw Her Standing There.  Billy is equally as strong on the slower numbers, especially with his haunting performance of Yesterday.

Matthew McGuigan got quite a vocal workout in this evening’s performance as he sang lead on a large number of the night’s tunes in addition to his nimble and flawless bass playing.  Matthew started the night off hot with the ferocious Revolution, had a superb turn with Hey Jude, and nailed the falsetto line in Baby, You’re a Rich Man.  But his capstone number was his pudding sweet solo performance of Blackbird which sent chills down spines.

John Lennon would be proud of Ryan McGuigan’s voice.  Like Lennon, Ryan has a unique vinegar sour singing voice that lends itself beautifully to subtle nuance and emotion.  That incredible instrument was put to excellent use in Come Together, I Am the Walrus (with a little theatricality thrown in for good measure), I Feel Fine, and especially with his solo sequence in This Boy.

The McGuigans are also supported by a band that loves this music every bit as much as they do and even got their own turns in the spotlight.

Jay Hanson was phenomenal on lead guitar and fired off some sensational licks on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and had a remarkable vocal similarity to George Harrison on his rendition of Do You Want to Know a Secret?  Tara Vaughan’s fingers flew across the keyboard and she glowed in a solo during Oh, Darling.  Rich Miller’s drumming fueled the performances with a rock solid backbeat and Aaron Slagle’s cowbell had the crowd roaring for more in A Hard Day’s Night.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, Yesterday and Today is far more than a tribute to the Beatles.  It’s also a tribute to the McGuigans’ father, Bill, who died too soon from leukemia at the age of 42.  Bill can be proud of the legacy he’s left in his sons who do him proud by sharing their father’s love of a band that was simply the best with an act that is nothing but the best.  If tonight’s crowd was any indication, this show is going to be a long series of sellouts.  Do not delay.  Buy a ticket to see this city’s best musical act before the tickets fly out the window.

Yesterday and Today runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through December 31.  Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6:30pm.  There will be a 2pm performance on Sunday, November 29 and a special double performance on New Year’s Eve at 7pm and 10pm.  Tickets cost $40 except for the New Year’s performances which will be $50 for the 7pm show and $75 for the 10pm show.  For tickets, contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit the Playhouse’s web site at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.