Broadway Features and Reviews
Stoppard's Rock N Roll Connection
Acclaimed British Playwright's Surprising Rock Connection
By Christopher Moore, Broadway Magazine
While Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, and John Lennon all seemed to have been ill-served by Broadway juke-box musicals over the past few years, Tom Stoppard has stepped up to restore those prominent rock artists to a more desirable place in the eyes of Broadway theatre-goers. With his latest production Rock N Roll on Broadway, Stoppard The Great’s seamless flow of multiple plot lines plays out against a soundtrack that features rock music as being capable of bringing about both political revolution and personal revelation.
In Rock N Roll, Stoppard tells parallel narratives that concern a Czechoslovakian student and his Marxist professor in England. After a short stay in England, the student Jan, returns to Czechoslovakia where he becomes a fan of The Plastic People of the Universe, a real rock band who’s actual arrest became the catalyst for a series of events that, arguably, includes the birth of Charter 77, the presidency of Vaclav Havel, and the fall of communism. Based in actual fact, Stoppard’s production is earning enthusiastic reviews from critics, and is one of the most talked about productions on Broadway.
In addition to music by the real Plastic People of the Universe, the musical landscape of Stoppard’s Rock N Roll includes classics by The Doors, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pink Floyd , The Beach Boys, The Cure, and The Rolling Stones. Notably, the play invokes the late Syd Barrett, the troubled former Pink Floyd front man. Barrett passed away last year and is still remembered by fans despite the fact that his final performance with the group was in the late 60’s. Even with its compelling score, this is not a Broadway juke-box musical…though no doubt this is as close as Stoppard will ever get to a response to Broadway’s musical trend. Surprisingly, the celebrated Stoppard has an on-going creative association with rock music. He confesses in a recent issue of Vanity Fair that he wrote much of last year’s Tony-winning epic trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, under the influence of repeated listening of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. To bring the Broadway play’s rock connection even further, the rumor mill in the UK reports that Rolling Stone Mick Jaggar approached Stoppard about buying the film rights for the play during the show’s acclaimed London run last year. Mick knows it’s only Rock N Roll, but apparently he likes it.