Do you remember how you felt when you heard songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Twist and Shout” or “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for the very first time? Actor-musician Jared Mancuso certainly does.
“I wasn’t even five-years-old. I was with my mom on our way to the mall when ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ came on the radio, and I was obsessed,” said Mancuso, who created Rock & Roll Reignited, the first show of FST’s Summer Cabaret Series. “So, she helped me find the tape of ‘Meet the Beatles,’ and I just listened to it over and over.”
And thus began Mancuso’s life-long love affair with Rock & Roll.
This ultimately led to Mancuso—as an adult—playing Buddy Holly in professional productions of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story across the country to much critical acclaim. Steve Stanley of StageSceneLA wrote, “Mancuso holds the audience in the palm of his hand.”
But starring in these productions wasn’t scratching Mancuso’s creative itch. A lot of the shows featuring the music of Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, and the like focused on the past of Rock & Roll and viewed the music as if it were a relic that needed to be preserved. These shows focused on what the music was, not what the music is.
“I wanted to create something original where the songs were amped up and revitalized,” said Mancuso. “I was worried that, if I didn’t find a new way to share this music that I loved, it was going to die out.”
And so, Mancuso developed Rock & Roll Reignited, a high energy show featuring amped up renditions of songs by such artists as Roy Orbison, Ritchie Valens, Chuck Berry, and more. Instead of focusing on “The Day the Music Died,” Rock & Roll Reignited explores Mancuso’s and the audience’s personal connections to the music and highlights how it is as alive as ever.
“This music makes me, and the audience, feel so alive!” said Nick Gallardo, who created the musical arrangements for the show with Mancuso. “We’ve sprinkled in a few jokes, included an emotional moment or two, added in peppier arrangements, and set the songs in a more contemporary sound. We pack as many classic hits as possible into one explosive concert.”
Mancuso admits that it can be intimidating to walk the line of modernizing songs like “It’s So Easy,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Come On, Let’s Go,” while still honoring them for the classics they are.
“It’s a line that is sometimes scary to walk,” said Mancuso. “It’s easy for me to come up with an arrangement of a song that I like. But will the audience like it? The answer has been yes. At their core, the songs themselves are so good that people connect with them right away, even if they’re presented in a completely different style than they are used to.”
Bringing staples from the golden age of Rock & Roll to life is Not Fade Away, a live, four-piece band made up of four young artists, including Mancuso and Gallardo, who are ready to burn up the stage and make the music we know and love sound fresh and new. Not Fade Away recently wrapped up their national tour, performing at over 150 sold-out venues spanning from California to New Hampshire.
“Being part of this group has made me appreciate the music so much and we have a blast playing it,” said Aurora DuBois, who plays bass as part of Not Fade Away.
Playing the drums is Nick’s cousin, Mike Gallardo, a multi-instrumentalist based in Arizona.
For this group, Rock & Roll Reignited is not a tribute show, it’s a Rock & Roll experience.
“It’s not a history lesson,” explained Mancuso. “This show is about sharing our personal memories connected to the songs as well as the universal stories about how the music moves us.”
Rock & Roll Reignited played in FST’s Court Cabaret from June 14 to August 7, 2022.