Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘Rock & Roll Man’ Overview: An Alan Freed Biography


The musical “Rock & Roll Man” begins with an attention-grabbing gambit: It’s 1965, and J. Edgar Hoover is prosecuting the D.J. and promoter Alan Freed, then at dying’s door. Hoover has accused Freed of destroying “the American lifestyle by inventing the style of music which you named rock and roll.”

A very good clue that the scene takes place not in actuality however within the thoughts of the ailing Freed (Constantine Maroulis, from “Rock of Ages” and “Jekyll & Hyde”) is that he’s defended by Little Richard (Rodrick Covington) — who’s fast to level out that his consumer didn’t really invent rock.

What Freed did do was play R&B singles on the radio reveals he hosted in Cleveland after which New York, introducing so-called race information to white audiences. He then marketed the music as “rock and roll.”

The majority of this bio-show, which opened on Wednesday at New World Phases, consists of a flashback that unfurls infinitely extra conventionally than the prologue.

Within the early Fifties, Freed discovers new sounds at a report retailer run by Leo Mintz (Joe Pantoliano), and he instantly falls in love with the raucous music bringing white and Black youngsters collectively. His rising success as a D.J. takes him to New York, the place he begins associating with Morris Levy (Pantoliano once more), the shady report label and nightclub proprietor.

Gary Kupper, Larry Marshak and Rose Caiola’s e book dutifully strings collectively a parade of hits by the likes of LaVern Baker (Valisia LeKae), Jerry Lee Lewis (Dominique Scott), Chuck Berry and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (each performed by Matthew S. Morgan). However Randal Myler’s manufacturing by no means generates early rock’s chaotic, typically suggestive vitality. Freed might have imagined the trial, but it surely displays a time when rock was seen as an assault on the sexual and racial order; the present, nevertheless, make it onerous to know why Freed and the artists he championed have been seen as a menace to American values.

Freed was an attention-grabbing fellow, and his life was a lot rock ’n’ roll. Sadly, the present principally skims over the truth that along with hobnobbing with Levy — they each ultimately went down for payola — Freed overindulged in booze and girls. The storytelling is very haphazard when coping with his household life.

Even worse is that since Freed himself didn’t sing, Maroulis — a former “American Idol” contestant who’s the uncommon musical-theater performer capable of convincingly rock — doesn’t get to do any of the hits and is as an alternative caught performing perfunctory originals written by Kupper. He will get to let unfastened slightly on the title quantity, on the very finish of the present, however by then it’s too little and method too late.

Rock & Roll Man
At New World Phases, Manhattan; newworldstages.com. Operating time: 2 hours.

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