Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Produced by Z Space, but playing at Marin Theatre Company's black box Lieberman Theatre, Keith Moon: The Real Me takes the audience on a precarious journey that is the highwire act of rock and roll stardom. As Berry (as Moon) puts it early in the show, being a rock and roll star is a bit like playing "reverse Russian roulette." Instead of one bullet and five empty chambers, it's five bullets and one chamber filled with a bouquet of roses.
But getting to the bouquet? That's the challenge, but it's one that Moon apparently embraced with every fiber of his being. "If you can't go inside yourself to destroy yourself, you'll never make it," he says. Destroy himself Moon does, dying from an overdose of a medication prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol he believed he needed to play with his signature abandon. (Moon spent a large portion of his adult life under the influence of champagne and brandyor any other intoxicant he could lay his hands on.)
To tell the story of Moon's madness/genius, Berry takes his audience on a journey through the music made with his bandmates in The Who (if you didn't already know that Keith Moon was The Who's drummer, this show probably isn't for you!), spending a large percentage of the show at a massive (nine drums, including two bass drums and six cymbals) kit. Berry is a powerful, skilled drummer, and recreates (with almost perfect accuracy) Moon's brilliant drumming on hits like "Baba O'Riley," "My Generation," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." Though a bit tight at the top of the show at the performance I attended, by the time he got to "I Can See for Miles," Berry's playing brought the crowd at the intimate Lieberman Theatre to its feet in recognition of his thrilling, intense rhythmic patterns.
Thanks to the placement of cameras in and around and above the kit, the audience is able to watch every aspect of his playing from multiple angles on a projection screen upstage. Two other screens display a variety of historical images of Moon, The Who, and various records and album art. (Though Z Space should know better than to use a bit of videoof an exploding toiletfrom Getty Images with the watermark still clearly visible!)
Between songs (all of which were rerecorded covers by highly skilled musicians and a Roger Daltrey soundalike), Berry as Moon relates a touching, if ultimately tragic story of a man obsessed with being the greatest rock drummerwhile simultaneously sabotaging his efforts with his antics and addictions. Berry touches on all the clichés (which in Moon's case happen to be true) of smashed televisions and hotel toilets destroyed by cherry bombs, M-80s, and even sticks of dynamite. He also includes anecdotes of a more humorous nature, including some of Moon's wackier escapades with best friend (and fellow alcoholic and hellraiser) Oliver Reed.
Berry returns several times to the metaphor of reverse Russian roulette. It's an apt one, as Moon's life seemed to consist of one ex/implosion after anotherpassing out on stage during concerts, breaking his wife's nose (three times), drunken driving with tragic consequences, and moretempered by the bouquet of stardom and artistic genius that was The Who's music. "All my dreams come true," this Keith Moon states with a tragic wistfulness, "including the nightmares."
Keith Moon: The Real Me plays through September 10, 2017, at the Lieberman Theatre at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $35, and are available at BrownPaperTickets.com.
Note: An earlier version of this review stated that Marin Theatre Company is credited as co-producing this show, which was incorrect.