Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Brockway Experience
A/C Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Leaving Iowa and Shrek


Chanel Bragg, Megan Moylan, Ava Tyson,
and Maya Weber

Photo by Josh Globke
The words "rock musical" can sometimes be off putting to those musical theatre fans who prefer Rodgers and Hammerstein and classic musicals like Fiddler on the Roof over shows like Rent or American Idiot. Yet local music director and musician Mark 4Man has come up with a solution that attempts to bridge the gap between rock and Broadway, and he calls it The Brockway Experience. This concert production just concluded a run at A/C Theatre Company with a phenomenal cast and a fantastic band. I can only hope that future installments of this show are in the works.

Taking such classic, traditional songs like "Tonight" from West Side Story and the title tune from The Phantom of the Opera and setting them to a rock beat not only puts a whole updated spin on these familiar songs but it also gives a new avenue for local musical theatre performers to show their impressive vocal capabilities. 4Man works constantly across the Valley at numerous theatres and his dedication, expertise, professionalism and talent are continually on display in every aspect of the shows he touches, whether directing, serving as music director, or playing in the show's band. His contributions to Brockway are no less exceptional.

The ten person cast featured a mix of seasoned Phoenix based performers as well as a group of teens who have appeared in numerous youth productions across the Valley. While each performance of Brockway was different, with guest stars each night and a set list that changed somewhat, the performance I attended was slightly skewed to be less of an ensemble piece and more of a venue for a few of the performers. Not that this was a bad thing, since everyone involved with this production has exceptional vocal chops, but some of the performers were reduced mainly to serving as backup singers and only given a few brief solo moments to shine. I hope that, for future productions of this show, the balance is somewhat more even.

Megan Moylan, Eddie Maldonado, and Sam Primack received the most chances to strut their stuff, with Moylan getting the majority of the solos to sing. Moylan starred as the title character in A/C's Lizzie last year at this time and she also was superb as Amy in Company at ASU two seasons back. Her powerful voice excelled on every song she was given to sing and she provided plenty of showstopping moments, including a performance of "Defying Gravity" that was sensational as well as impressive deliveries of "Nobody's Side" from Chess, "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" from Next to Normal, and "I Will Prevail" from the Wonderland.

Maldonado's soaring performance of "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music was the highlight of the night and showed how 4Man's idea to take a familiar song but present it in an entirely new way was not only impressive but inspiring. Maldonado also delivered an energetic take on "Safe in the City" from Taboo. Primack's passionate version of "Waving Through a Window" from Dear Evan Hansen was superb and he sang "Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll" from Memphis with Chanel Bragg and was featured on the encore of "Goodbye" from Catch Me If You Can that also included Joey J. Grado—both of whom recently sang that song in different local productions of that musical earlier this year.

Primack and Grado also got to show off their rap abilities in a Lin-Manuel Miranda medley that also included Maya Weber and Ava Tyson delivering a great rendition of "Burn" from Hamilton. Tyson also achieved some soaring high notes at the end of Phantom of the Opera's title track, which also featured Devon Nickel hitting some impressive notes in an impassioned delivery of the song. Vincent Pugliese and Devon Policci sang "What You Own" from Rent and provided added vocals on many other songs, including Pugliese having a blast on his parts of "Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Show, while Bragg and Nickel got some nice solo moments on "Downtown" from Little Shop of Horrors.

The women in the cast provided some beautiful harmonies on the Oscar winning film song "Fame" while the teenagers in the cast delivered a stunning version of "Fa├žade" from Jekyll and Hyde that opened the second act. 4Man also performed a passionate version of Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man," which was featured in the Broadway musical Movin' Out. Guest artists at the performance I attended included Cassandra Klaphake and Adam Vargas. Klaphake had a blast singing "Somebody to Love" by Queen and Vargas provided an inspired take on "Santa Fe" from Newsies.

The band, led by 4Man on piano, Bobby Flanagan on drums, and Daniel "CheezyCheez" Johnson and Daryl "Pops" Johnson on guitar and bass, was stellar, and the arrangements were sensational, ensuring that even the songs that were more rock heavy in their original versions were given a fresh and updated feel. The lighting design by Aeryn Moridae and Dani Bratcher was superb while Ryan Pottle's sound design was the best I've ever heard for a musical performed in this space, with crystal clear vocals and an impressive sound balance.

Heavy rock operas and rock musicals like Hair may not appeal to traditional musical theatre fans, but if The Brockway Experience pops up again, I recommend any musical theatre fan, even those who don't like "rock musicals," to go.

A/C Theatre Company's production of The Brockway Experience ran August 4th through August 19th, 2017 with performances at Phoenix Theatre's Hardes Little Theatre at 100 E. McDowell in Phoenix. Tickets for their upcoming production with Phoenix Theatre of Hedwig and the Angry Inch can be purchased by calling (602) 254-2151 or visiting www.actheatrecompany.org.

Creator/Music Director/Piano: Mark 4Man
Lighting Designer: Aeryn Moridae and Dani Bratcher
Sound Designer: Ryan Pottle
Drums: Bobby Flanagan
Guitar: Daniel "CheezyCheez" Johnson
Bass: Daryl "Pops" Johnson

With Chanel Bragg, Joey J. Grado, Eddie Maldonado, Megan Moylan, Devon Nickel, Sam Primack, Devon Policci, Vincent Pugliese, Ava Tyson, and Maya Weber


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