Youngstown Symphony is ready to ‘Rock On!’
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
With his “Rocktopia” set to launch a tour this spring, Randall Craig Fleischer is unleashing a second rock-meets-symphony show.
The music director of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra will present “Rock On!” at 8 p.m. Saturday at Powers Auditorium.
“Rock On!” features vocalists Rob Evan and Chloe Lowery of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and LaKisha Jones, 2007 “American Idol” finalist, along with the Youngstown Connection.
In “Rock On!,” the YSO, with the vocalists and a backing rock band, perform ’70s and ’80s rock hits. The program includes Bruce Springsteen (“Dancing in the Dark”), Cindi Lauper (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”), Eagles (“Hotel California”) and Chicago (“25 or 6 to 4”).
Though the two shows are both hitting stages at roughly the same time, and with similar music, there are differences in their presentation and purpose.
“Rocktopia” is the bigger of the two. It has the trappings of a rock concert, including giant LED screens behind the stage and a light show.
Fleischer, who created both shows, further explained how they differ.
“‘Rocktopia’ fuses classical music with classic rock and includes an extensive visual spectacle,” he said. “‘Rock On!’ is more of a symphonic tribute concert. It’s famous rock songs, largely from the ’80s, are sung fantastically and played with rock band and orchestra.”
The aim and audience of the two shows also diverge.
“The two shows have entirely different business plans,” said Fleischer. “‘Rock On!’ is strictly a symphony pops program, being offered through my agent to symphonies. ‘Rocktopia’ is heading more for performing arts series and arenas, and is a big collaboration with PBS.”
“Rocktopia” will launch its tour April 13 at the State Theatre in Cleveland. It weaves together music by Mozart, Journey, Handel, U2, Tchaikovsky, Heart, Beethoven, Styx, Foreigner, Rachmaninoff, Pink Floyd, Copland and so on. PBS filmed a performance in Hungary and aired it in September.
One thing the two do have in common is vocalists Evans and Lowery, who perform in both shows. “Rocktopia” has a cast of five singers.
During his diverse career, Evans has performed seven leading roles on the New York stage, including the original Broadway cast of “Jekyll & Hyde,” playing the title role for three years and more than 1,000 performances. He co-created “Rocktopia” with Fleischer, which was premiered with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra in 2012 at Powers Auditorium.
Lowery recently completed a winter tour as lead female vocalist with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, has been featured on Yanni releases, and has toured with trumpeter Chris Botti. She was featured on the PBS “Rocktopia” special.
After her stint on “American Idol,” Jones appeared on Broadway in “The Color Purple” and appeared with symphony orchestras worldwide, including the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.
Providing backup to the vocalists will be the Youngstown Connection, a show choir comprised of city school students under the direction of Carol Baird.