Interview: Nick Gallardo of ROCK & ROLL REIGNITED at the Florida Studio Theater – Broadway World | Region & Cash

One of Florida Studio Theater’s current summer cabaret offerings, Rock & Roll Reignited has been touring the country since 2016, breathing new life into some of the biggest hits of the ’50s and ’60s. Described as a “rock ‘n’ roll experience” rather than just another tribute show, it features fresh musical arrangements performed by four-piece band Not Fade Away: with co-creators Jared Mancuso and Nick Gallardo on E- guitar and vocals, Aurora DuBois on bass and vocals, and Mike Gallardo on drums and vocals.

Nick Gallardo, one of the show’s performers and musical arrangers, has a deep connection to the music of Rock & Roll Reignited. Where does this connection come from?

I grew up with rock and roll, it was always in our household. We had a record player, CD player and everything. My father and mother always acted in films. So I grew up with a lot of fifties, sixties and seventies: Richie Valley, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Doobie Brothers, anything that really rocked your body. We always danced and had a good time. My sister loves Selena so there was a little Mexican influence there.

Around our house or at my grandmother’s, we all went to play guitar. We have a 4th of July party every year where everyone in the family can get up and play. We ended up in a few bands. So my cousin is now our drummer. I have a picture of him playing drums when he was five and now he’s 20 – it’s just cool to see something like that. It felt like I was turning every corner [music] was my choice. And that’s what I decided.

I remember playing baseball and being in the Tucson, Arizona Boy’s Chorus. At some point I had to make a decision. I thought, “Baseball is great, but I do so many really cool things here.” When I was 12, our choir went to Mexico City. So this is where I got my discipline and my desire to go anywhere. I’d shake all nerves from, “Oh man, that’s crazy.” It became my reality, seeing these different places and listening to different types of music, I was always immersed in it.

When I was 27 I started working at Dollywood and we did a few shows there. I came back home and started making tribute after tribute after tribute. I met Jared in 2013: we did a pretty standard rock tribute and it was fun, but it was definitely mature, you know what I mean? So we knew we had to jump a little bit into the future, and that’s sort of where the show that we have now started.

Why this music and why now?

This music is vital. I have an emotional connection to this music because it reminds me of my family, but I don’t feel obligated either. I feel like an honor to bring it to a newer era. There are a lot of kids who don’t know this music and when they hear the backbeat behind it like “La Baba” songs like that are so great. I feel like that’s a world mantra. I really think it’s important.

It’s almost like knowing where you come from so you know where you’re going. It’s such important music and it’s easy to remember. We want older audiences to enjoy it, and we want younger audiences to want to enjoy it too. This music is not something that should die. You know what I mean? So we changed some arrangements and put our personal love for it, our own feelings, into the songs to give them a more lively sound.

Interview: Nick Gallardo of ROCK & ROLL REIGNITED at the Florida Studio Theatre

What are the challenges in approaching such well-known and popular music?

I can be very territorial on certain songs, especially Richie Valley’s. Sometimes you just want to hear it the way it was played. But the thing is, if you want to hear it as it’s played, there are plenty of sources to get that music whenever you want. We don’t change everything, it’s a healthy balance – we don’t want to blow anyone out of the water. I want to make sure we keep the integrity of the song tradition, but then let’s add a few things just like you do with any music. They just remade “A Star is Born”. Why would you redo it? It was such a good movie. Right? but [the remake] It was fantastic. If you can bring something nice to a project, then do it.

If you look at some of the more popular tributes, they’re the ones that do it because there’s something cool about bringing the past to life. However, we have been on this stage before and want to offer something a little different. We want to get a little bit more involved in the show. So it’s not strictly a tribute, it’s more of an offer where you get music, but you also get us. It’s nice to connect with people and they connect with us. It makes for a more honest show.

i am mexican So I generally like to move. I’ve always been a hyper kid. When I went to Dollywood we did 465 shows in six months and it was a dance intensive show. That really gave me the discipline I needed. But I think I’ve always been spirited and ready to bring a wonderful dance energy to anything. So when you get on this show, the background of listening to music, walking the hallways, playing the guitar, whatever was available, how raw that can be, is very natural on the show. And I think it’s cool that you can draw from these things without realizing it and it just comes naturally.

What was the process of putting together the show’s setlist and curating the music for Rock & Roll Reignited?

Jared and I, before we got out of here, we were just like, ‘Okay, well, we know what songs need to go in there. Let’s find out which ones are going to capitalize on the show and really mix it up and do well, strong offer.” The good thing is we’re all into hits. We’ve got over two hours of music [to choose from], but on this show we have 70 minutes of music. It was the best problem one could have to reduce it. And many hits have to go in. Then we try to tell a story with the songs in between. The hardest part was figuring out how to get as much of the show as possible in 70 minutes. It was just nice to actually be able to shape it.

Little by little we added slightly different arrangements to each song. We would introduce a little more distortion. We would add some audience time where they can [participate]. Trying to make it less of a presentation and more of a community event that everyone can be a part of. Somehow we just put a little more energy into it and it happened. It wasn’t overnight. I remember doing the show and six songs were a little bit different, then we came back in a year and then half the show was different. Saying, “Hey, you know, I have an idea: why don’t we add this tableau that really shows this incredible energy?” And so we added in different arrangements. Stuff that the audience could really partake in and enjoy. And we added some visual extravaganzas that really, really just make it look cool and tight.

We have the highs and then some sensitive moments and the balance I think speaks for itself. Doing it in cabaret was rewarding and special and very, very different. Every little detail can be seen on these people’s faces. We’re used to playing in front of crowds that are not only 30 feet away, but in front of a massive audience. There is even a delay in the applause. Here, they are right here. I feel like it’s a bit more emotional. You see it almost more as a film. It’s pretty cool. It’s quite different.

How have Sarasota audiences responded to “Rock and Roll Reignited” so far?

You are all great. Sarasota is a broad spectrum. It’s really, really interesting. We had a very, very good relationship with the audience. We know it’s a cabaret so we don’t want to blow anyone away but then you see everyone mouthing the words or you just see everyone with a smile on their face, it’s a different kind of reception. Sometimes we get a louder crowd. Sometimes we get the people standing and dancing in the aisles. Sometimes they have a slightly stricter theatrical approach. However they choose to enjoy the show is fine with us, as long as they enjoy it. It’s cool to see.

This is the first time we’ve done so many shows in one place. We’re doing our 50th show on Saturday. Sometimes I just stand on stage and look around. Even though we sing, it’s still in my head. It’s just very rewarding to see where we came from, where we are now, what we’re doing and to know that people appreciate it. If there’s anything, I think it’s nice to know that people appreciate you and what you do. That you spread good energy for the world to hold on to, especially now.

Rock ‘n’ roll reignited with Not Fade Away is playing at FST’s John C. Court Cabaret through August 7, 2022. For tickets and more information about the show, go to: https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2187776®id=330&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.floridastudiotheatre.org%2Frock-roll – reigned-not-fade-away?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1 or call (941) 366-9000.

Photo credit: Destiny Jackson

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