I recently had the opportunity to attend a performance of Broadway’s “Rock & Roll Man,” which is the Alan Freed story. For those who aren’t music buffs, Freed was a DJ who is credited with popularizing the phrase “rock and roll.” He is credited for playing Black artists on mainstream radio.
Set in the 50s and 60s, the musical extravaganza spans generations of artists who became pop stars, and theatergoers of various ages will find themselves getting caught up in the lyrical moments. The musical’s whip appeal galvanizes the spirit of music and young people of all ethnicities’ enthusiasm for what would become the most significant genre of music.
As the cast members belted out heady numbers, including such classics as “Good Golly/Tutti Frutti,” “Yakety Yak,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” “Great Balls Of Fire,” and numerous other classics, I was inspired to share my words about “Rock N Roll Man.” The poignant tale of Freed, who died at age 43, was a story that needed to be told. Freed reminded me of another iconic DJ, the late Hal Jackson of WBLS radio station in NYC, who passed away ten years ago.
Like Freed, Hal Jackson broke records, hosted live shows, and had an indelible impact on music lovers with a passion for music with no color boundaries.
Many DJs who broke records back in the day were scrutinized for their unorthodox business model. Still, today, their efforts to get music to the consumers would have been viewed at marketing and promotion rather than payola, which was legally a no-no. Had Freed been a working DJ today, his circumstances would. have been different. Sadly, he was ahead of his time.
But on a positive note, his character, Constantine Maroulis, was ideal for the role.
The character of Little Richard, portrayed by Rodrick Covington, is nothing short of amazing. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that this actor stole every scene, not just for his mannerisms and voice but for the costumes and makeup he wore. Furthermore,
although all cast members were great and brought in laughs and smiles, Little Richard turned it up and turned it out.
Taking a walk back into music history, I was pleased to make the acquaintance of such idols as Frankie Lymon, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis on the stage. A friend of mine, the late Dick Clark, is also a character in the book by Gary Kupper, Larry Marshak, and Rose Caiola.
The historical significance of “Rock & Roll Man” is unparalleled, and the production deserves to be seen by people worldwide. There are no barriers here–just wonderfully good music.
I highly encourage tourists, younger and older potential goers, to get to the New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., NYC, to take a step back in time and rock out!
WATCH A CLIP HERE: