Thursday, October 25, 2018
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Rocktopia had the music, the stage show and some great opera and Broadway vocalists. All it needed was a rock star.
Enter Dee Snider.
The front man of platinum-selling metal band Twisted Sister is handling the rock songs on the Rocktopia tour, which comes to Youngstown Friday.
What: Rocktopia, featuring Dee Snider
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Powers Auditorium, Youngstown
Tickets: $35, $52 and $99 at youngstownsymphony.com, 330-744-0264 or the DeYor box office, 260 W. Federal St.
Rocktopia is a mashup of a show that interchanges classic rock and classical music with an LED screen backdrop. It was co-created by Youngstown Symphony Orchestra music director Randall Craig Fleischer and Broadway star Rob Evan, and premiered in Youngstown in 2012.
Rocktopia has since gained legs. It has been made into a PBS special (2016), did a stint on Broadway early this year, and now it’s on the road – with Snider.
The powerhouse singer sang with Rocktopia earlier this year on Broadway and obviously impressed the creative team.
“I did my week, and a few months later I got a call from Rob Evan saying we’re taking this out on the road and want you to be the rock star,” said Snider in a phone interview last week. “I was very excited to join.”
With his view of classical music, Snider is definitely right for Rocktopia.
“Symphonic music is bombastic and so am I,” said the singer. “My observation of Bach and Mozart is that they were the metal stars of their day. If electric guitars were invented back then, they would have used them.”
Fleischer and Evan knew that Snider was who they needed to take the show to the next level.
“Dee is an amazingly talented and recognized major rock star with a big following, and he has fallen in love with Rocktopia,” said Fleischer. “He is like a force of nature on stage... Electric.”
Snider has several “huge” solos, said Fleischer. “Rob [Evan] kind of distributed things, and Dee fits in beautifully.”
Twisted Sister’s signature songs were added to the show expressly for Snider. “His fans will not be disappointed,” said Fleischer.
Snider is a show business multi-hyphenate. He’s done Broadway before (“Rock of Ages”), some TV acting roles, and hosts a syndicated radio show (“House of Hair”).
It also turns out that he is well-versed in classical music.
“I’m a classically trained contratenor,” he said. “I sang both styles for years until rock ’n ’roll won out.”
Snider said he joined the glee club when he was 8 years old, and also had his first rock band at that time.
“I sang classical while learning rock,” he said. “I bailed on classical at 19, but I was a good contratenor, award winning. In one moment [of Rocktopia], I join the opera singers, and I actually sing with them and the audience’s faces drop.”
Rocktopia features an orchestra – led by Fleischer – and a rock band on stage, with six singers rotating in and out. Musically, it intertwines classical and rock classics in a way that flows together.
Snider brings the rock swagger.
“I got my heavy metal bedazzled look,” he said. “It’s metal, and it glistens. It might be too sparkly for my metal band, but for this purpose ... hey, I am a heavy metal guy and it is theater.”
Snider’s explanation of Rocktopia gets right to the heart of what makes it so timeless and great.
“Some people think it’s symphonic rock, but no it is not,” he said. “It’s a mashup of classic rock and classical music, a unique experience. You’ve got a rock star, Broadway and opera singing together, a truly unique vision.”
One thing it isn’t is Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
“Some of the cast (including Evan) is also in Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and it is an inspiration – they exposed people to a more symphonic interpretation of rock. But Rocktopia is a meeting of the minds.”
“If ever there was a dinner party for the masters, there would be Bach, Beethoven, the Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin ... All of them will be remembered and will stand the test of time, because all are the classical composers of their time. It wasn’t until I saw Rocktopia that I got that.”
The show also has a way of turning rock fans on to classical and vice versa.
“In this era, everyone grew up on some kind of rock,” said Snider. “Some also became fans of classical but others never got the introduction to it.
“In many ways, this is that introduction. The way they present it and expose you to it... it is spectacular.”