One of the first DJ’s in Canada to play steady rock n’ roll over the airwaves was Red Robinson. This important radio personality is explored in Arts Club’s Red Rock Diner. The show consistent of back-to-back renditions of popular 50’s tunes performed live by five main actors. The actors, with the help of costumes, hair and makeup, portray various archetypal characters from the 50’s. An instrumental ensemble consisting of: bass, drums, guitar, keyboard, and saxophone players, allows Red Rock Diner to transport viewers back to the beginning of rock n’ roll.
The first act of the show includes songs such as: Great Balls of Fire, The Hucklebuck and Blue Suede Shoes. Most songs are prefaced with Red Robinson’s (Neil Minor) commentary, along with the occasional jokes referencing Vancouver. Colin Sheen, my favorite performer of the night, sings and performs the comical Splish Splash. His dancing and enthusiasm throughout both acts is a staple of the show. Zachary Stevenson, who played Buddy in the popular Buddy Holly Story, is no stranger to the Arts Club. His expertise when it comes to playing a rock n’ roll legend definitely lends a hand to his performance in Red Rock Diner. After watching him perform Jailhouse Rock it’s obvious he plays a mean Elvis Presley.
During intermission I was thinking about how strange it felt to be sitting during such an upbeat musical. I felt even weirder when I looked around and saw how immobile the audience was. If the stagnancy wasn’t enough, I was getting a bit tired by the lack of story line. Although I enjoyed Red Robinson’s radio talk, I was yearning for something more. Thankfully, the second act held more story structure and, coupled with the inclusion of audience participation, made for a fun show.
By the end of the second half, the actors moved their way into the crowd and invited audience members to join them on stage. Sure enough, Tafari Anthony, the most soulful singer of the bunch, danced my friend and I up to the stage. Here we were joined by a handful of other participants. We learned some dance moves, rocked out to some 50’s songs and even played a round of musical chairs. The negative thoughts that had crept up on me during the first half of the show dissipated as I two stepped my way back to the 50’s.
Personally participating in the show made this production memorable. I left feeling happy to have come and inspired by the era.
Check out Red Rock Diner at the Granville Island Stage! Don’t forget to build up some bravery first so that you too can rock this iconic stage.
Shows have been extended until August 23.