Arts Club Theatre's Red Rock Diner

Reviewer Wayne MacEachern

Arts Club Theatre, Granville Island
All through September 1998
Tickets: (604) 687-1644

Have you ever gone to a Rock ‘N’ Roll concert and felt the electricity of enthusiasm singe your every nerve? When I decided to cover this 50’s Rock and Roll Revue at the Arts Club, I suspected my nerves would be assaulted by high voltage nauseating nostalgia reminiscent of the 70’s when “American Graffitti” and “Happy Days” relentlessly thrust Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry onto our senses.

Combine that fear with the recent anniversary of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s death and my hesitation to revisit the 50’s became more like a Stephen King horror story rather than an opportunity to have a rockin’ good time.

Fortunately, Dean Regans’ production of Red Rock Diner had little to do with either King. It was fresh, powerful, entertaining, and sincere. At the same tiime, it offered the audience a glimpse into the bold genius and manic off-the-wall humor of legendary Vancouver DJ Red Robinson.

From the opening chords of the twangy guitar intro that led to a very appropiate and stirring rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” all the way to the final curtain call, the audience was riveted by an experience that transported us back to the 1950’s era with humor, style, energy, and absolutely first rate performances by a top notch cast. Throw in a set that pulsed with memories, a wonderfully crafted and reference-laden script, a little ‘musical chairs’, and a lot of great yo-yo tricks and, voila! Red Rock Diner is a show Vancouverites will fondly recall for years to come.

It would serve no one’s interest to single out any of the cast as a scene stealer, although my personal favorite was Neil Minor. As a soda-jerking, vertically challenged, lovelorn dynamo, Minor sang with all the heart and ardor of a true Rock and Roll entertainer. He also added some excellent physical comedy that reflected the slapstick style of that era.

Debbie Timuss delivered perhaps the best solo performance of the night as she demonstrated her real-life skills as a former Grizzly cheerleader in a remarkably funny and acrobatic King Edward Talent Show skit.

Mark Weatherley as Red Robinson, Elvis look-alike Michael Buble, Biker/Greaser/Heartthrob Curtis Blayne, and blonde bombshell Lalainia Lindjberg were innovative, exciting, highly energetic, and above all, extremely talented in their roles.

A superb (oops - I almost called them a back-up) band featuring Tom Arntzen on the keyboard provided sounds credited to the birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Arntzen together with Bill Runge on Saxophone and Miles Hill on stand-up bass delivering fiery solos-- the house was “ a’rockin”!

With more than 20 songs delivered each night plus matinee performances, the entire cast somehow managed to maintain a high-impact, full-force performance.

Red Rock Diner has been extended to play at the Arts Club Theatre until the end of September, and based on the rapport established with the audience on the night I attended, I’m sure each and every night will be destined for standing ovations and deserved success.