Kool Kat of the Week: High and Loud: Tenor Rob Evan Helps Put the Classic into Classic Rock with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 By:

Rob Evan. Photo courtesy of Ron Evan and ASO.

This week’s Kool Kat is Rob Evan, a Georgia native who’s teamed up with vocalists Micah Wilshire and Shem von Shroeck as The Rock Tenors. Hear them mash up the worlds of rock, country, Broadway and opera with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Fri. May 9 and Sat. May 10.  

As a vocalist and recording artist, Mr. Evan is a member of the platinum selling rock band, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He’s also rocked Broadway in the original Broadway cast of JEKYLL AND HYDE, playing the title roles for three years and over 600 performances. His credits also include one of our favorite leading roles, Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLESon Broadway and the critically acclaimed National Touring Company.

ATLRetro caught up with Rob to find out more about the Rock Tenors shows, TSO and more!

What’s the secret origin story behind the Rock Tenors?

The three of us were actually separated at birth and raised by different parents. We three were fed daily doses of Classic Rock and inspired by such greats as Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and so on. The ultimate goal was to reunite us as grown men and form the super group, which is now known as THE ROCK TENORS! OK, most of that is NOT true and actually we were brought together by Maestro Michael Krajewski in Calgary about a year and a half ago. This monster was his brain-child.

You meld quite a diverse selection of music for the show. How did you decide on what musical acts and songs to include? Is there a specific criteria for a Rock Tenors song?

The three of us are very different in our vocal styles. Maestro chose material that he thought would highlight and feature what we excel in as vocalists. The criteria for our material, to me, is best described as HIGH and LOUD. All kidding aside, there is really something for everyone in this concert. I promise it’s not a scary “Rock” show. People are loving it both young and old(er).

Do the Rock Tenors always perform with a symphony? What will the ASO contribute?

Yes, this particular show is built for symphonies. To me – and I have performed with most of the major symphonies around the US as well as several internationally – the ASO is one of the best in the biz. They will add a great deal to our performance. It’s a blast to hear 60 pieces jam on your favorite Rock songs.

What’s your personal favorite part of the Rock Tenor performance?

Probably the Rock Tenor Medley we do at the end of the first act. Again, we are very different, BUT when we first sang together in harmony, we realized that it was going to be a great project to work on. The Rock Tenor Medley highlights tunes from The Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Yes, Kansas and Journey. 

Has anything ever surprised you about what resonates with audiences?

I can’t say that much surprises me anymore because I’ve seen so many different reactions having performed for over 20 years. I am convinced though that the Classic Rock genre is slowly making it’s way into not only the symphony world but our everyday lives no matter what age you are. Remember that Mick Jagger is 70! And so are a lot of the Stones fans. 

You’ve been in so many exciting Broadway shows and tours. When you were growing up, what was one Broadway show or role that inspired you? And have you had a chance to perform it?

I have to say that the reason I am doing this for a living is because of LES MISERABLES. I actually saw it at The Fox the first time it came through Atlanta. I was taking my girlfriend out for what I thought was a romantic French dinner and then a French musical. I was blown away and became obsessed. And my full circle is that I played Jean Valjean on Broadway as well as at The Fox.

You did HELLO DOLLY with Madeline Kahn. What role did you play and what was it like to work with her?

Before I got cast in LES MIS and during the time I was still in Atlanta, I auditioned for work at Theater of the Stars. I was in the chorus. Madeline was so lovely and generous to the cast. She would actually do her classic lines for you if you asked, i.e. “I’m So Tired…” from BLAZING SADDLES. She is sorely missed. As well as Theater of the Stars. 

Do you have any exciting Trans-Siberian Orchestra news to share right now?

TSO has been my chance to be a real “rock star.” I have performed in front of millions over the past 10 years that I have been in the band. I also have gold and platinum records on my wall thanks to the band. We are gearing up for both a new album, which I have already laid down my vocals as well as a brand new Winter Tour that begins in November. 

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Photo credit: Jeff Rothman.

What else are you up to right now? What’s next?

I am the busiest I have been in a while. I do a great deal of symphony work in both the Broadway and Rock genres. I am also producing and creating concert projects. Some I am in, some I direct. My “baby” if you will is a show called ROCKTOPIA which should air next spring on PBS. I also have a progressive rock band called Menrva Realm and hope to tour that in Europe soon

Since you’re a Georgia native, is there something special when you get to perform in Atlanta and do you have a favorite thing that you plan to do while you’re here?

I LOVE Atlanta. I actually moved my family from NY to Alpharetta in 2008 hoping to stay. Unfortunately, the nature of my business brought us back to NY only a year and half later. All of my family is based in and around Atlanta and Georgia, so I will get to spend some time with them. They are all coming to see The Rock Tenors. And, I might hit The Varsity. Just sayin’…

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Kool Kat of the Week: Where is Love and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA? Scott Hardin Finds Both as Projectionist for the Fabulous Fox Theatre

Posted on: Jul 26th, 2013 By:

Fox Theatre Projectionist Scott Hardin with an original 1929 projector.

By Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer

While The Fabulous Fox Theatre was not actually conceived as a movie house (it was originally intended to be the headquarters for the Shriners’ organization) and it amazingly almost faced the wrecking ball in the 1970s, its history as the Southeast’s premiere glittering palace of cinema is firmly entrenched.

While The Fox has been transformed from a movie house to a multipurpose arts venue, its storied past in cinema is kept alive by the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival which kicked off in June. From now through August, The Fox will present seven more features on the biggest screen in Atlanta. Before the movie starts, patrons are treated to a sing-a-long with the “Mighty Mo” organ and a vintage cartoon. This weekend’s features include Quentin Tarantino‘s DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)[Fri. July 26 at 7:30 p.m.], the animated caveman comedy THE CROODS (2013) [Sat. July 27 at 2 p.m.] and a new digital version of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) [Sun. July 28 at 4 p.m.]as well as the official Sing-a-Long version of the John Travolta-Olivia Netwon-John ’50s-themed high school movie musical GREASE (1978), which is not part of the official series.

Only in July, the Fox Theater also will present special movie tours before this weekend’s Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival screenings. These tours will take you to the projection booth, screening room, two star dressing rooms and the stage while learning about the history of the movie palace and Mr. William Fox‘s innovations. The Fox also offers behind-the-scenes hour-long tours year-round.

Making this all possible, in a sense, is our Kool Kat of the Week, Scott Hardin. Scott has been the film projectionist at the Fox since 1978, making this his 39th year in the projection booth. We recently caught up with Scott to talk about film, history, the new tours and his own beginnings in “showbiz.”

ATLRetro: How did you become a film projectionist? 

Scott Hardin: I was too old to pretend I was Zorro anymore, even though my grandmother made me a wonderful cape that I got a lot of mileage out of. That, and a friend of mine I had met when he was working for Theater of the Stars – while I was a 14-year-old kid in THE SOUND OF MUSIC – had later joined the projectionists’ union and thought I might like to train to be one, too, given our past “showbiz” affiliations. He was a great friend named Jeb Stewart, who had actually sung on Broadway in the chorus of various shows. My biggest claim to fame had been playing the role of OLIVER at 12 years of age in the summer production at Theater Under the Stars, which was then outdoors at Chastain Park Amphitheater. What does that have to do with your question?  Not a thing, but I can still sing “Where is Love?” for you if you’d like.  Jeb Stewart later became the Business Agent of the Projectionist’s Union and sent me to help with the Fox projector installation those many years ago.

The auditorium and stage of the Fox Theatre. Photo credit: Yukari Umekawa.

When did you start at The Fox? What was the Fox like at that time?

I started in the spring of 1978 helping with the installation of projectors that had been brought over from the Loew’s Grand Theatre [Ed. note: another Atlanta movie palace which had been the site of the world premiere of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) and tragically was destroyed by fire that year].  I was a young movie projectionist with four years of experience at the time and was sent to fill in for an older projectionist who had to go deal with personal issues for a few days. I remember carrying some of my dad’s tools with me to the job in a Kroger sack. I told them “Don’t worry, I’ll only be here for a few days.”  Well, that was 35 years ago and the other guy’s never returned.  I’m pretty sure he’s not coming back.

The doors to the theatre were locked with chains when I arrived. I was told to knock loudly on the door and ask for Joe Patten. After banging the arcade door as loudly as I could, a young receptionist came over to unlock the door. I told her I was there to work with Joe Patten on the movie projectors, and she just turned around and yelled as loudly as she could towards the auditorium:  “JOE!!! …JOE PATTEN!!!”  (This was before they had walkie-talkies to communicate with.) After no one answered she said, “well, he’s probably backstage.  Just wander back there and see if you can find him.” (Ed: Joe served as The Fox’s technical director from 1974 to 2004. He was granted a lifetime rent free lease in the 1970s and still lives in an apartment at The Fox.)

Scott Hardin with the new digital projection system.

Is there a film you projected at The Fox that you think was terribly overrated? 

I think the film OLIVER [1968] was overrated because I wasn’t in it.

What about underrated?

THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (2001) was terribly underrated.  How can you get more poignant than that?

One of the exciting films of this year’s Coca-Cola Film Festival is a new digital print of David Lean’s masterpiece LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. What can viewers expect out of this release?

They will see a beautiful rendition of the original negative of the 70mm film print, this time shown in Digital Cinema with no fading of color, no scratches, no splices, no interruptions of sound.  They can also expect camels.

Another film on the docket is the sing-a-long version of GREASE. Will you be singing along with the audience?

I’ll be sitting in a seat in the balcony using a remote volume fader to turn the sound levels up and down while following a script that has my sound cues in it.  I’ll be singing loudly at the same time too, except I’ll be singing “Where Is Love?”

Sing-a-Long Grease at Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square. Photo courtesy of Fox Theatre.

Before this weekend’s screenings, moviegoers can book special Movie Tours at The Fox. What’s your favorite “secret” place people will see on the tour?

My office door backstage that has my name and the word “Propmaster” above it.  It’s my secret, because even though I do double duty as the Props Department Head, I’m not really a “master” at it – I barely have a green belt – but if somebody paints “master” above your name, you have to keep up appearances.

Will you be in the projection room during the tours?

Yes, in all probability, along with my assistant Mike.

How has The Fox changed over your 35 years?

There have been so many changes it’s hard to enumerate them all. There’s a general trend in technology from analog to digital, and from simple to complex. I’ve also noticed people I’ve worked with for years gradually start to look older and wonder why I still look 28.

What do you think about the change in film from celluloid to digital? Is projection easier? More difficult?

Digital Cinema projection is easier because you don’t have to inspect and repair each frame of film by hand, and it looks and sounds great when everything works. However, you’re relying on computers to always work perfectly, which everyone knows is fraught with folly, and [that] will make it less reliable than film in the long run, in my opinion.

The original 1929 projectors at the Fox Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Fox Theatre.

Finally, which film have you projected the most? And how many times?

I have projected GONE WITH THE WIND on 11 different occasions in my 35 years at the Fox. One time in 1989 was for a 50th anniversary re-premiere with some of the surviving cast members on the stage. The most prominent was Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy. My friend Jeb Stewart, who was responsible for first sending me to the Fox, helped me project the movie that night.

This Weekend’s Movie Details:

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012); Dir. Quentin Tarantino; Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson; Friday, July 26 @ 7:30 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

GREASE SING-A-LONG (1978); Dir. Randal Kleiser; Starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing; Saturday, July 27 @ 7:30 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1963); Dir. David Lean; Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn; Sunday, July 28 @ 4:00 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

Gretchen Jacobsen is freelance producer, writer, costumer and film school graduate. She is also widely know by her Steampunk nom de internet, Wilhelmina Frame, and serves as the Editrix de Mode for the website Steampunk Chronicle.

 

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Off to Be The Wizard with Mark Jacoby of WICKED, Broadway’s Upside-Down Journey Back to Oz

Posted on: Sep 14th, 2011 By:

Mark Jacoby as the Wizard in WICKED. Photo © Joan Marcus.

From the original L. Frank Baum novel to the 1939 musical movie version of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the tale of Dorothy Gale, her dog Toto and three misfits who deemed themselves incomplete without a physical brain, heart and courage could easily be called the quintessential American fantasy epic. Like Middle Earth is England in simpler, more magical times, Oz is an expression of Retro-Americana Midwestern know-how and whimsy. And that spunky little girl from Kansas, like her prairie counterpart Laura Ingalls Wilder, is an uniquely all-American heroine.

That is, until Gregory Maguire turned that heroine’s journey on its head, gave the Wicked Witch of the West a name, Elphaba, and had the chutzpah to suggest that things went down considerably differently and were rewritten by a government-run, propagandist media, as it were. (Shades of contemporary media politics? Well, the original Oz may have had some circa 1990 political satire between its pages, too.) The Broadway version of Maguire’s novel WICKED is more a twist on the familiar movie than the book, and whether or not you approve of tampering with a classic, the imaginative sets and costumes look even more magical on the Fabulous Fox Theatre stage, where it opens today and will be playing through Oct. 9 as part of the Broadway Across America series.

WICKED focuses on who’s the real good witch and who’s the real bad witch. But actor Mark Jacoby, a Georgia State University alumnus, got to tackle the conundrum of an all-American carnie man who landed in Oz accidentally and found himself, thanks to his seemingly magical balloon-borne arrival, declared Wizard and ruler of the capitol Emerald City. Jacoby is no stranger to playing sympathetic villains, having donned the mask of the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for three years on Broadway. He’s also stepped into the shoes of many of American musical theater’s most iconic characters including SHOWBOAT’s Gaylord Ravenal (Tony Award nomination for Harold Prince revival), FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’s Tevye (Barrymore Award) and Father in the original Broadway run of RAGTIME. ATLRetro caught up with Mark recently to find out how he approached America’s most famous humbug in this villain-friendly version of Oz.

How is the character of the Wizard different in WICKED than in the 1939 movie WIZARD OF OZ and even the book? Do you think it is different? One of the intriguing things about this piece is how it’s been overlaid on the story we’re all so familiar with, mostly from the movie WIZARD OF OZ. They are the same people theoretically in context. You’re just looking at them from a different angle. I suppose an actor doesn’t have to take that literally. He can do what he wants. But I tend to think and the powers that be also do, that I should approach him as the same character we encountered in THE WIZARD OF OZ.  You just find out different things, and different things are emphasized. He’s flushed out a bit more. There’s more explanation as to how he got there, why he’s there, and what makes him tick.

The Wizard's dramatic counterfeit persona from the original Broadway company of WICKED. Photo © Joan Marcus.

I think the Wizard of Oz was someone who was in the right place at at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time, whichever way you look at it. He’s regarded by the people of Oz as somewhat supernatural. As he says, I never asked for this, I was just blown here by the wings of chance. One could take that literally or is he telling a story? I choose to think he is talking literally. He has wound up in this situation, but he wasn’t malevolent. He wasn’t planning to become a tyrant or anyone overbearing with the population, but now he’s stuck with it. I’m not saying he’s a perfect man. He got hooked with all the adulation and all the power and all he has to do to maintain it.

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