I told you last December,when Steve and Maureen van Zandt premiered the Rascals show “Once Upon A Dream” in Port Chester, New York at the Capitol Theater– that it was a hit. Tonight the show opens on Broadway for a limited run. Run, do not walk, see if you can get a ticket. I caught the press preview last night, and “Once Upon a Dream” is every bit as good as it was then.
The Rascals broke up in 1970 and fought for 40 years. Why? No one really can say. But their short time together was blazing. They were the white blue eyed soul group on Atlantic Records, produced by Arif Mardin, guided by Ahmet Ertegun. Their greatest hits album, “Time Peace,” lived forever as a testament to their popularity. The songs– “Groovin’,” “Good Lovin,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “It’s A Beautiful Morning,” etc — have withstood the test of time.
In “Once Upon a Dream,” they use a huge video screen behind the live, playing original Rascals to intersperse interviews with the group. They get to tell their stories– Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli. They are not perfect. They’re Jersey boys (although Felix is really from the north Bronx). They’re three Italians and one Irish guy. (Correction from a reader: French Canadian.) They know how to fight. But they also know how to play music and sing.
Last night, the men got a standing ovation in the middle of the show for “Groovin'” and of course, for “How Can I Be Sure?” and at the finale. There’s a local love for this group that should hold them in good stead for this Broadway run. They were the local heroes before Bruce and Billy. The theater was 90% full last night for their one preview. Comedian Lewis Black sat behind me and knew all the words.
Felix Cavaliere has had a solo career, and toured a lot, made some records over the years. I’ve known him for a while. Briganti is the question mark. When he was young he looked like Al Pacino. Now he’s more like an ethnic Mickey Rooney. But what a voice! And he’s still got it. He and Cavaliere just make a great sound together. Cornish is like a lost gem of a guitarist. Danelli powers the drums like Ringo Starr, with his own trademark. No one else is like him.
The van Zandts put this up on Kickstarter last fall, and hoped to yield enough funds to do the Port Chester show. “Once Upon a Dream” now has a healthy advance and a nice run for the returned Rascals. They deserve it.