The opening night audience at Rubicon Theatre’s world premiere of “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” obviously reveled in it.
It clearly doesn’t matter what generation audience members spring from, whether they’ve heard it all before or are discovering it for the first time, rock and roll has an irresistible appeal through its innovation, forthright messages, impish humor and just plain people-to-people essence.
Rubicon’s new production picks up on the enthusiasm engendered by its previous hit “Lonesome Traveler” and involves lots of the talent that embraced that show’s bounty of thoughtful and compelling songs.
Celebrating another generation of songs, this time those from 1965 through the 1970s, Rubicon co-founder James O’Neil was joined by Lifetime Grammy Award-winner George Grove and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle winner and Tony nominee Dan Wheetman in putting together “Dig.” Musical direction is by Trevor Wheetman, with arrangements by Grove and the multi-tasking performers.
The cast of Instrumentalists and singers, most of whom amply fill both categories, consists of singer-songwriter Sylvie Davidson, who also plays guitar and bass; singer Brendan Willing James, songwriter, guitarist and bass player; singer-songwriter Chris Lash, keyboards and guitar; and singer Caitlin Ary.
The company of the theatrical concert “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” is shown. Directed by James O’Neil, it is now playing at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura.
All are musicians who embrace the style and spirit of the featured times and deliver the music with a fascinating blend of finesse and attention to the messages of the era, which as the show progresses clearly remain meaningful for our times.
An opening medley quickly sets the mood with longtime favorites “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” "Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” some of the most familiar.
Altogether, including several medleys, “Dig” presents some 40 snippets or songs, most of which will quickly click with many in the audience, from youngest to oldest, those who recognize the songs and those getting the best possible vocal and instrumental introduction to them.
The second half of the musical treat opens with an instrumental medley, among its offerings “Hey Jude,” “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Let It Be” and “Everybody’s Talkin’,” but there’s still plenty of singing to relish, culminating in the cast’s own songs which include Trevor Wheetman’s ominous “Dangerous Clown.”
But it’s Stookey’s new “Standing on the Shoulders” that resonates as the performance rises to a vibrant finish with its urgent call for today’s audiences to share the urgent surge of the late '60s and '70s and take charge of their world, and their destinies.
“I Dig Rock and Roll Music” isn’t just a passing flash of memorable songs. As O’Neil’s program notes recall with legendary Pete Seeger’s quote: “… when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, they also know there is hope for the world.”