The Coast News Group

Salute to 50s and 60s on stage at Avo

VISTA — When it comes to those oldies but goodies, Mark W. Curran is a man on a mission. Since 2002, he has mounted a one-man campaign to keep the music of the 50s and 60s alive in the hearts and minds of anyone who will listen. “Shake Rattle and Roll: A 50s – 60s Celebration” will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Avo Playhouse, 303 Main St. Tickets are $35 and can be gotten at
When he first conceived a show that would incorporate the greatest hits of the 1950s and 1960s into a colorful and unique tapestry of nostalgia, he was unsure there was enough of an audience to sustain it. But today, eight years later, the show called “Shake Rattle and Roll,” has become a regional hit in theaters across the Southland.
“I wanted to create an exciting stage show that stayed true to the original arrangements and sound of the original hits, yet was a little zany and humorous,” said Curran, 51, who resembles Elvis Presley and actually plays him the show. “Something that the performers as well as the audience, could have fun with.”
Along with longtime friend and musical director Tom Haney, who is also a guitarist and vocalist, the two set out to assemble the song lineup for the show. “It was harder to decide what to leave out than what to put in,” Curran said.
The two formed the six-piece ensemble they dubbed the “Cruisin’ Oldies Showband” that would “deliver the hits of the rock and roll era in a dynamic and powerful way,” Curran said. Along with bassist Rico Topazio, lead guitarist Ori Huberman and drummer Steve Kida, the two set to work crafting the script and song repertoire.
Drawing on his stage experience as an actor and singer, Curran decided that incorporating various icons from the golden age of rock and roll would be necessary to pull it off.
In the “Fabulous Fifties” part of Act One, the show introduces such luminaries as Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly,
Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, among others. There is even a humorous send-up of the song “Summer Nights” from the stage show “Grease.”
In Act Two, the “Swinging Sixties” are represented in such psychedelic flashbacks as ‘Incense and Peppermints,’ pop ditties like “Doo Wah Diddy,” “Devil With A Blue Dress,” “Mony Mony,” “Satisfaction” and “I’m A Believer” with lots of pleasant surprises along the way.
With the latest addition of keyboardist/vocalist Jeannie Austin, the show is able to bring a dynamic female presence to the stage show, further evident in her portrayal of Olivia Fig-Newton John and Nancy Sinatra and other pop singers of the 1960s.
Using multiple costume changes and clever musical arrangements, “Shake Rattle and Roll” showcases many of the No. 1 hits and superstar artists that defined both eras.
“It’s the soundtrack of our lives, those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s all about the Beatles, the Beach Boys,
the Four Seasons — I mean, they just don’t make music like that anymore,” Curran said. “You know, it’s tragic — oldies music is vanishing. Radio stations aren’t playing this stuff much anymore. The baby-boomers are aging and going out to the theater less and less, and as the economy continues to tighten, these are very difficult times for live music, theater, and oldies music like this.”
But Curran, forever the trooper, is a man with a vision. “I won’t stop bringing this music to the people until they stop coming to see us,” he said. “Once that happens, I’ll give it decent burial, but as long as there is even a breath of life in it, I’m going to keep it alive.”