Let’s rock

Nicole Kessler

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Maggie Seidel Laws” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Quinnipiac University has landed a groundbreaking, exclusive performance group, “Rocktopia: A Classical (R)evolution.” At 8 p.m. Friday Oct.13 they are set to be gracing the presence of Quinnipiac families at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford.

“Rocktopia is like a super band,” Rob Evan, co-creator and vocalist from Rocktopia said. “It’s hard to really describe to an audience that hasn’t seen it what they’re about to experience.”

That’s because Rocktopia is remarkably unique and in a category of its own. They seamlessly fuse together iconic songs from multiple generations like classical music, classic rock and opera with original one-of-a-kind musical arrangements.

“We wanted to find a concert experience that brought together all ages,” Evan said. And it’s the blending of all this amazing music. We hand crafted this set list and we picked songs that would go together for a reason. We didn’t randomly match things up. They either had emotional messages that were in common or a musical theme.”

Compositions include songs like Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” Symphony No.9 with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” They also perform music from Queen, Journey, Puccini, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Mozart, Pink Floyd, The Who and Rachmaninoff.

“If Mozart or Beethoven were alive today, they would be rock stars,” Evan said.

Actor, vocalist, producer, six-time Broadway star and a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Rob Evan, is the co-creator of Rocktopia along with conductor Randall Craig Fleischer. Together they combined their love for classical and rock music to create this giant show.

Along with Evan and Fleischer, there are 11 other Rocktopians who are all world class musicians and vocalists. At the Oakdale, Rocktopia will partner with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the choir from the Hartt School of Music.

“No one has [ever done this,]” Evans said. “We’ve been working on this show for about eight years and I’ve been in a lot of different shows in a lot of different worlds. They may do a mash up like ‘Glee’ but we are taking that experience to a completely new level by using rock music with a symphony orchestra. So adding the strings and horns to a rock ballad, that alone is really cool.”

Rocktopia will also have sky-high LED screens with colorful lights that will illuminate the theater.

“We show on our video walls all the rock stars who have left us too soon—Bowie, Prince, Freddie, Amy Winehouse, and really transition into “We Are The Champions” and then we show all the people who aren’t with us anymore but made everlasting imprints on humanity like Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, or MLK, so while this is happening and you hear the music it’s emotional,” Evan said.

Evan, along with his team, wants Rocktopia to be a personal experience.

“I mean music is a really powerful thing. It can unify and you can attach the first time you heard a song that you loved so much,” Evan said. “ You’ll never forget that moment [you heard that song] and it will take you right back there. So that’s what I’m hoping [for]. Because it’s such a wide span of music, people get these visceral personal reactions from it and get really invested in the show so afterwards they’re blown away.”

Back in 2016, their electric performance at the world-famous Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest caught the attention of Donald Weinbach, vice president for development & alumni affairs, when he saw their performance on PBS last winter.

“Landing Rocktopia is a real coup for Quinnipiac,” Weinbach said. “They started in Budapest and have spent the summer touring the United States to sell-out crowds.”

While Shauna Golden, a senior journalism major, will be home Parents’ Weekend, she said that she saw good reviews online from people who purchased the video concert featured nationally on PBS.

“It’s certainly a unique concept and something that’s really innovative,” Golden said. “The DVD version was filmed in Budapest, which I think is pretty cool, especially after having visited there.”

Quinnipiac has been looking for ways to improve Parents’ and Family Weekend and had long admired the Boston College program. For years, they have an in-the-classroom opportunity followed by an evening concert by The Boston Pops Orchestra.

Weinbach thought it would be a great idea to bring that same mold to Quinnipiac and with the help from Rocktopia.

“Let’s make it happen,” Evan said.

On Friday afternoon, Oct. 13, there will be ‘Inside the Classroom,’ allowing parents to get a first-hand experience of the education of student, without the pressure of exams. Following this at 8 p.m. will be the concert at the Oakdale Theatre, only 10-15 minutes from all three campuses.

The current Rocktopia band has only been together since the spring of 2016. They are brand new and have only toured one time before this past spring for PBS in 21 cities. This is going to be Rocktopia’s last major performance before their big announcement in the beginning of October.

“Quinnipiac is really going to get to see something that hasn’t been released out into the public yet,” Evan said with much enthusiasm. “We are on hiatus right now so we are kind of getting the band back together for Quinnipiac. It’s not like we are touring right now. We have people from all over the world who are going to fly in to perform for you guys at Quinnipiac.”

Students and parents alike can purchase tickets, which will be provided at less than half the cost of a public Rocktopia concert. Adult tickets are $50 and student tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at qu.universitytickets.com.

“This is a unique opportunity for everyone to see a world-class performance at a hugely discounted price while raising funds for the Parents’ Association Endowed Scholarship Fund,” Evan said. “It will be an extraordinary evening of fun, family and affordable entertainment.”