Red Rock Diner cast, Vancouver

Red Rock Diner is a fun, 1950’s slice-of-life musical set in Vancouver, paying homage to one of the country’s finest DJs, Red Robinson. It’s a fun, fitting cap to the Arts Club’s 50th season, highlighting a talented cast in a colourful, summery finale to set audiences off on a happy note.

By the mid 1950’s, Comox-born Robinson was a fixture on radio, known for being one of the first DJs to play Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and other hot acts of the day to Vancouver listeners. He even introduced the Beatles in 1964, on the same stage where Elvis appeared seven years earlier.

On July 21, 1994, Red Robinson was officially inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame and his name appears in cement in front of the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.

Neil Minor in Red Rock Diner Robyn Wallis in Red Rock Diner
[L to R: Neil Minor, Robyn Wallis in Red Rock Diner]

In the show, DJ Robinson (brilliantly played by Neil Minor, an original cast member of the production) sets up the scenes above in his CKWX DJ booth while the cast and band below sing, dance, and entertain on a black and white checkerboard stage floor. Between the musical numbers, fun radio spots are plugged, literally shining the spotlight on the singers for a quick blip.

At this point, I should mention the talents of Lighting/Set/Projection Designer Ted Roberts, Director/Choreographer Valerie Easton, and Costume Designer Darryl Milot, who bring this show to a high quality level all around. Flouncy dresses, sparkly gowns, white jackets and suits, leather jackets and pony tails – it’s all here, with a detail-rich set that’s designed to move and fold with some of the scene changes throughout the two-act, two hour show (with one intermission).

Red Rock Diner cast, Vancouver

Musicians perform in the background, upstairs, inside Ward’s Music Shop on West Hastings, and at King Edward High School’s 1957 grad night.

Red Rock Diner forms the stage centerpiece, where “Great Balls of Fire”, “Johnny Angel”, “Splish Splash”, “Hello Mary Lou”, “Rockin’ Robin” and other hits of the day are danced to. The choreography is fantastic. We watched in amazement at the physicality of this production, and how easy the cast make it look, while having fun on stage with one another.

The talented, lively Red Rock Diner cast includes Tafari Anthony (Richard), Mathew J. Baker (Pat/Ensemble), Todd Biffard (Gene/Ensemble), Jeff Gladstone (Bill/Ensemble), Anna Kuman (Connie), Neil Minor (Red), Colin Sheen (Johnny B), Zachary Stevenson (Val), Robyn Wallis (Venus), and Brett Ziegler (JP/Ensemble), all under the excellent musical direction of Steven Greenfield.

Red Rock Diner cast, Vancouver

I particularly enjoyed the gals’ duet (Anna Kuman, Robyn Wallis) singing “Where the Boys Are”, as well as Zachary Stevenson, who’s likely right at home on this 50’s-era set, after performing The Buddy Holly Story all these years (we saw his excellent portrayal of Buddy last year at the Stanley Alliance).

Colin Sheen’s (Hairspray, Glory Days, Busytown) got some great spark as does Ontario native Tafari Anthony (Motown Gold, Love Train).

Anna Kuman in Red Rock Diner Red Rock Diner cast, Vancouver
[L to R: Anna Kuman, cast in Red Rock Diner]

The Teen Canteen Show is where it (was) at back in the day, and DJ Robinson found a few opportune moments to poke fun at Vancouver real estate, weather, and The Canucks. Old adverts and a great black and white video of Val and Venus are shown on the video projection screen above to further add to the atmosphere. The Woodwards “W” is even included, behind Arlene’s Boutique upstairs.

Colin Sheen in Red Rock Diner Tafari Anthony in Red Rock Diner
[L to R: Colin Sheen, Tafari Anthony in Red Rock Diner]

Created by Dean Regan, Red Rock Diner captures the spirit – and sweet innocence – of the 50’s, and the show will appeal to all ages. This will become apparent during one number during the evening (I’m not saying when!), where the cast heads off into the audience to find ladies with particular names to join them on stage for some dancing and a round of musical chairs!

Catch Red Rock Diner through August 2 at Granville Island Stage. Photos by Emily Cooper.

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