Rock times two7/20/2016
No tribute band ever got a better endorsement. George Harrison, the late great Beatle, once showed up at a performance by Damian Darlington, then and now the leader of a Pink Floyd tribute. What’s more, this was a birthday party for David Gilmour, a founder of the original ensemble.
“There was a moment of near-paralysis,” admits Darlington. By that time he’d been playing around England for years, and he wasn’t intimidated by international hits like “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon.” Still, he’d never expected to play for a former Beatle.
“But once we got into it, we could see the guy liked what he heard. Songs like these, if you do them justice, they’ll always go over,” said Darlington.
Sure enough, since then, Darlington and his “Brit Floyd” tribute act has found success worldwide. It has worked up a multi-media extravaganza, entirely live, with six musicians and three backup singers. Better still, it avoids a simple chronological arrangement, which would begin with tunes from about 1968 and work through what followed.
“We concentrate on the music itself — its changing moods. We want the evening to have a rich and satisfying flow,” said Darlington.
At the same time, the act pays tribute to Pink Floyd’s sense of spectacle. The original band came out of art school, and its album covers and laser shows set new standards.
“We travel with two very, very full trucks of equipment,” Darlington assures. “We know the effects have to be just amazing.”
That’s even when the crowd doesn’t include George Harrison.
Doing right by classic rock also fuels the latest Playhouse production, a joshing and frenetic take on “Rock of Ages,” Broadway’s 2009 mashup of a hair metal soundtrack.
Director Karla Kash understands that the script isn’t much — the second act can feel like running down a list of the 1980’s Top 100. So, too, she’s got to keep the set simple, since events always return to a dank club on the Sunset Strip. Rather, Kash goes to the Playhouse strengths. Angela Lampe’s costumes deliver knockout color combinations, and the teeming pool of young local talent hits the stage flying.
The chief headbanger is Andrew Rubenbauer, flinging his locks around as if to rid himself of his brain. He’s all over the high notes, too. Indeed, the best jokes concern the excesses of hard-rock singing, and Rubenbauer smartly jettisons the subtlety he needed for last year’s “Ascher Lev.” Another Rubber Man with a falsetto to die for is Demetrius Fisher, nailing every laugh line. Then there’s the villain, Douglas Chochrane, a Hitler out of a Warner Brothers cartoon.
Really, every ensemble member gets to cartwheel and caterwaul. A Playhouse newcomer, Alli Heckart, bounces around as if she keeps a Superball — and voice to match — inside her small frame. Watching her go, only a snob wouldn’t shriek back: “For those about to rock, we salute you!”
Overheard in the Lobby: Urbandale Community Theater is back this weekend with “Beauty & the Beast.” CV
John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.