Review: The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream (Mirvish)

The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream

The sidewalk outside the Royal Alex was an exciting place before the opening of The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream tonight.  When I arrived Steven and Maureen Van Zandt were being interviewed for television. As well as the TV camera there was a crush of cell phone wielding fans all determined to catch the moment.

There was a red carpet and other celebrities were interviewed as they arrived. Lots of buzz. It boded well for the evening.

The Rascals are an American band who were active in the sixties. Some of their hits – “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” “It’s a Beautiful Morning” and “People Got to be Free”. They split up in the early seventies. Steven and Maureen Van Zandt convinced them to get together for The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream.

It’s a concert with the original band members – Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish, and Dino Danelli – performing together after 40 years. They perform 28 songs over the course of 2 hours and prove that they’re still ready to rock. When I closed my eyes the music sounded the same as it did forty years ago.

The back of the stage is a huge screen. In between songs there are video interviews with band members talking about how they got together and about their musical influences. During the songs there is film footage from the era that provides some context for the songs. There’s also a gorgeous psychedelic background that seems far more beautiful than the original.

The production was designed by Marc Brickman, who co-produced and co-directed with Van Zandt, and it really is beautiful.

As well as co-producing and co-directing, Steven Van Zandt wrote the script for the video segments.

It was lovely to see the audience smiling and bobbing their heads and moving their shoulders. There was a lot of restrained Royal Alex kind of seat dancing going on. There was a balding silver haired man in a suit across the aisle who had a big grin on his face for the entire show. The woman in front of me knew the words to most of the songs.

The energy – from both the band and the audience – seemed to take a few songs to build but once it did it was solid.

Although a lot of the audience was about the same age as the band I don’t think it’s just a “you had to be there” show. The music is terrific and the production is impressive; a very enjoyable evening.


  • The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream is playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St W) until August 25.
  • Performances are at 8 pm Tuesday through Saturday and at 7 pm on Sunday
  • Ticket prices range from $59 to $200
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at (416) 872-1212/1-800-461-3333, and at the box office

Photo of Dino Danelli, Felix Cavaliere, Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish – photo by David Rohde

3 thoughts on “Review: The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream (Mirvish)”

  1. Hello,
    The Rascals were great and I would have rather just watched a complete concert without the video interstitial. The issues was the really poor production value throughout the evening. Van Zandt should really edit the video. It was presented completely unprofessionally as if someone who has never edited before took a shot a the craft. The re-enactments were horribly written and terribly produced all rounds. I love Steven Van Zandt and his underground garage program. This just did not seem to work. It could work, if they went back to the beginning and worked out the kinks. Have someone else produce the video segments and rework the timing of where they occur. Beyond that, we could constantly hear the sound guy running the board calling out cues.

  2. I saw the show tonight and didn’t stay – bailed after intermission. The lead singer unfortunately can no longer sing and the sound was distorted. They played songs in the 1st act that I had never heard before or will want to hear again. As a group, they had no charisma and no soul, as for the acting (?) they showed filmed footage of them talking (can’t they learn lines?) and it was difficult to follow. The only reason that I am not as pissed off at this play is that I received the tickets as ‘comps’…so it is 1 hour of bad singing and epileptic strobe induced lighting that I spent…hey, maybe I should be more pissed off!!!

  3. I disagree with the Shelly’s comments above.
    Although some of the tunes in the first act were not so recognizable, they are excellent songs nevertheless. And Felix Cavaliere still has wonderful vocal range. As for the lighting production…it was a joy from start to finish. I’m sorry that Shelley did not enjoy the “epileptic strobe induced lighting”. Perhaps she had a headache during the show and could not fully appreciate it.

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