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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Stage West Calgary Presents: Red Rock Diner

Red Rock Diner

A musical highlighting the early career of Vancouver DJ Red Robinson

Stage West Calgary
June 29th - August 30th, 2018

Photos courtesy Stage West Calgary, John Watson Photography

Walking into Stage West Calgary, the immediate attention-getter is the stage set up for their latest production, Red Rock Diner. A sprightly musical showcasing the early days of rock and roll through the experiences of a young Vancouver DJ, the set for the first half doubles as a DJ booth and a Fifties soda stand. That transforms completely for the second half, but as usual you are amazed by how the creative team can be in working with their space.

Actually, there’s one scene that makes even more creative use of a Coke fridge, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own…

Red Rock Diner is a creative merging of the music that was exploding (especially for teens) across North America, along with the catapulting of a young DJ named Red Robinson into a wide variety of impressive accolades, including induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He hosted Elvis Presley’s sole appearance in Canada, and made a name for himself with on-air antics that have been adopted by many others over the following decades.

If you’re in the broadcasting world, you’ll likely relate even more to this show, split evenly between Robinson plying his craft from the microphone in his studio, then MC’ing at one of the industry’s relentless public appearance events, in this case a school dance. 

Director and choreographer David Connolly brings his extensive theatre background here to Calgary for his Stage West debut, and along with him are a collective of talented, strong performers in demanding physical and vocal roles. Musical Director Konrad Pluta and his house band are invisible for the first half of the show, but stellar and flawless throughout. 

The plot, such as it is, basically serves to highlight the music that was exploding when Robinson was breaking ground early on in his career, and each performer finds a handful of songs to make as good as the originals, or better.

I’m going to have to hold back something for my official Calgary Herald review (coming soon), but a few quick highlights.

Scott Beaudin and Ben Chaisson ably deliver the music of artists like Buddy Holly and Elvis, along with a wide variety of doo-wop and other early rockers. Terrific senses of humour illicit laughs along with the hits.

Carter Easler gets extra points for his epic delivery of “Cry”, quite possibly the best musical performance I have seen in this facility.  And I have seen many...

Lee-Anne Galloway and Sarah Higgins not only match the gentlemen when it comes to performing the music, it seems often that they are both taking on even more in the dancing department (including a tap routine or two!). Watch out for their audience participation moment, a highlight in and of itself!

Ben Cookson as Red exudes warmth and charisma, relishing in the character that is Robinson, hammy jokes and all. Strong vocals, a perpetual twinkle in his eye, Cookson is the glue that keeps this all trucking along. 

 As I say, I’ll have much more in my official Herald review, but for now, if you love the early days of rock, and want to get a glimpse into some Canadian history of those iconic days, you’ll enjoy Red Rock Diner for sure.

4 out of 5 stars.