by Shirley Lorraine
Rock and Roll at the Rubicon
What a terrific way to end the summer – reliving a memorable time in music history and singing along to the tunes many of us grew up with. The world premiere production of I Dig Rock and Roll Music now playing at the Rubicon Theater fills the arena and the audience with memories and joy. We were reminded that music is a healing art so needed in troubled times. The concert entreated the audience to relax and enjoy “about the happiest sound there is”, in the words of Peter, Paul and Mary.
Carrying forward the concept of “Lonesome Traveler”, a Rubicon world premiere of a few years ago focusing on acoustic folk music, the current concert showcases songs made popular in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s when folk became electrified and blended into rock and roll. Those were the days when the lyrics could be easily understood, and specific songs became banners for some of us. Now, some 50 years later, we can still happily sing along. And the lyrics are suitable for all ages to hear.
Co-creators George Grove, Rubicon co-founder James O’Neil and Dan Wheetman have compiled songs that epitomized the era and whose messages are still meaningful today. Perhaps even more so. Protest songs such as “Peace Train” and “War” are mixed with familiar favorites “Cherish”, “California Dreamin”, “Everybody’s Talkin’ and more.
Cast members Caitlin Ary, Sylvie Davidson, Brendan Willing James, Chris Lash, Matt Tucci and Trevor Wheetman displayed their acumen in song styles as well as instrumentation. James and Wheetman both appeared in Rubicon’s Lonesome Traveler, and Davidson appeared in the Off-Broadway production of the same show.
The night I attended one cast member was absent and her part was filled in quite capably by Cassidy Craig, a graduate of the Rubicon’s Harmonix. Craig held her own throughout and even garnered a standing ovation for her rendition of “Respect” in honor of the late Aretha Franklin.
The second act opened with an instrumental medley where the audience was invited to sing along. And we did, joining in on “Hey Jude”, Sweet Caroline” and “Let it Be” among others. Many in the audience kept time to the beats with hands, feet and heads bobbing throughout the performance.
Adding a special touch to the concert were original compositions by James, Lash, Davidson and Wheetman. Lash provided Elton John quality on the keyboards that was intricate and inspiring. Drummer Matt Tucci kept everyone on beat. The range of this talented cast is a thing of beauty to the eye as well as the ear.
Noel Paul Stookey (Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary) contributed an original song as well, titled “Standing on the Shoulders” celebrating the lasting influence of musical performers who shaped history.
I Dig Rock and Roll Music provides an evening of nostalgia, beauty and pure enjoyment. Once again, the Rubicon Theater brings forth a high-quality artistic event to enhance our community.
I Dig Rock and Roll Music plays Wednesdays to Sundays through September 16 at the Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St. (corner of Main and Laurel Streets) in downtown Ventura. Matinees: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets: $35-$65. 24-hour ticketing and seat selection is available online at www.rubicontheatre.org. (805) 667-2900.