State Theatre New Jersey

Review

Rocktopia – A Classical Revolution

The magnificent direct-from-Broadway show Rocktopia performed at State Theatre New Jersey recently. They opened by telling the audience that the show is as if Beethoven and Mozart were performing and then Freddie Mercury walks on stage. And that’s exactly what it was like.

The show finished it's run on Broadway last spring and now the troupe is on a U.S. tour. Co-created by Rob Evan and Randall Craig Fleischer, there were several vocalists and other musicians including a pianist, a drummer, and a huge chorus; which was animated especially during “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the grand finale. The program for the show listed the accolades of these impressive performers. 

Rocktopia was inspired by the idea that if Beethoven or Mozart were alive today, they would be modern-day rock stars. Evan and Fleisher looked for common themes, potency, and emotional resonance in the songs before fusing them together to create explosive and moving new musical arrangements, according to the study guide on the show’s website.

Music has been around for a long time, dating back to prehistoric days, so playing music which is separated by a few hundred years is not farfetched, and while there are different genres, the elements of it are the same. Anyone who has taken a music class is familiar with the rudimentary elements of it, especially solfege (do, re, mi, etc.), which is attributed to Guido of Arezzo, an Italian musical theorist. He invented the modern musical notation in the 11th century and regardless of the genre, these notes are the foundation.  

Listening to classical and opera alongside rock was a nice contrast and the performers known as Rocktopians brought the music to life with pieces including Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun go Down on Me,” Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” Led Zepplein’s “Stairway To Heaven,” Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9: “Ode to Joy,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” 

For a Sunday night, the theater was packed. Vibrant colors and nature scenes provided the backdrop in a majestic graphics show giving the performance a nice touch. The scenery was in panels which looked like piano keys. When they performed Queen’s “We are the Champions,” photographs of luminaries were flashed including Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, President Kennedy, Vincent Van Gogh, and ending with Martin Luther King Jr.

The band closed out the night with “Bohemian Rhapsody” a perfect pick as it brings classical, opera, and rock together. The audience sang along throughout the show, but we were on our feet for the encore rocking with the stars of the show. Mercury is credited with saying “I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend” and he was right and Rocktopia brings him together with other legends.

By Elizabeth C. Millar

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