Created by Dean Regan. Directed by Valerie Easton. An Arts Club production. At the Granville Island Stage on Wednesday, June 25. Continues until August 2
Red Rock Diner contains more forced fun than a Japanese game show. But you can’t deny the enormous talents of the company.
In this nostalgic—and calculating—entertainment, which takes place in 1957, creator Dean Regan strings together hits from the period, so you get to hear a lot of the classics, including “Book of Love”, “Johnny Angel”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, and “Stand by Me”.
There’s no story to speak of. Regan has built the show around the personality of Red Robinson, a real-life Vancouver deejay. In Act 1, Red spins platters and the cast performs the songs live. In Act 2, Red hosts a high-school grad dance that includes a singing contest. Feigning humility, Red also insists on his own importance, telling us about his “friendships” with Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, for instance. Because the character comes across as a narcissist, the thread that holds the show together is unattractive.
And if ideas were food, you’d starve to death watching Red Rock Diner. In a jukebox musical like Buddy, you understand the music through the life of Buddy Holly. In a revue like Cowardy Custard, you enjoy variations on the nuanced sensibilities of Noel Coward. Red Rock Diner, on the other hand, bangs out AM hits with the relentlessness of a nail gun.
Still, there’s some serious talent on-stage, including fresh faces. Colin Sheen, who has just graduated from Capilano University, provides the only genuine thrill of the evening, creating a minidrama with “Cry”. And Tafari Anthony, an Ontario actor making his Arts Club debut, has a gorgeous, warm voice. Zachary Stevenson, who played Buddy in Buddy for the Arts Club, is as charismatic as all hell and, impressively, plays both guitar and sax as well as singing—although, it must be said, that his Elvis impersonation is only so-so. Neil Minor plays Red with as much casual charm as the character allows.
The two women in the company, Anna Kuman and Robyn Wallis, stick within good-girl and Marilyn Monroe stereotypes, but everybody, including several members of the impressive band, can sing. And there are some surprising twists and suspensions in director Valerie Easton’s choreography.
Talent needs a container, though, and Red Rock Diner adds up to next to nothing.