Music plays a key role in the hilarious Broadway production of ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS. Each night on the stage of the Music Box Theatre, 'The Craze', a four member band comprised of musical director Charlie Rosen, lead guitarist Austin Moorehead, percussionist Jacob Colin Cohen and lead singer Jason Rabinowitz, perform original songs by Tony-nominated composer and lyricist Grant Olding. The setting of the play, 1960's England, is a period of musical history marked by a fusion of rock n roll, jazz, folk, country and a little-known genre called skiffle.
Skiffle had its peak at the end of the 1950's. Its unique quality incorporated the familiar sounds of the acoustic guitar and drums with the rather unusual beats of the washboard and tea chest bass. With their anti-establishment, free-style attitude, skiffle players were considered by many to be the predecessors of modern-day punk rockers. With the onset of Rock 'n Roll in the 1960's, the style all but disappeared, yet its influence on future musical genres is undisputable.
BWW had a chance to chat with all four members of 'The Craze' and find out how they transform themselves each night from four immensely talented American musicians of the 21st century to four young lads from 1960's Brighton, England.
Charlie Rosen is a musician and composer who serves as the musical director of 'The Craze.' He made his Broadway debut at age 18 in the musical '13'. A year later he was part of the band of Broadway's 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.' His Off-Broadway credits include Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
It's interesting that all your Broadway experiences so far have been with shows where the band performs on stage rather than in an orchestra pit.
Yeah, I seemed to have found this niche for on-stage Broadway bands, isn't that funny?
It is. And I would imagine you prefer it that way.
Yes, you know it's definitely more exciting. I've had experiences, not on Broadway, more growing up, where I've played in pits and l love that as well. But being on stage and as you saw in the show, when we're not playing we're still in front of the stage, it's really cool because you still get to be a part of the action and the chemistry and the excitement of the audience. Everything that's going on, you get to experience with the actors. It's a little bit more connected to what's actually happening, so it's really exciting.
I was watching the four of you during the performance and you seemed to be laughing just as hard as the audience, as if it were the first time you had seen the show.
Yeah, and especially with this show because it really is different every single night. There are things that the actors will do in the moments where they have room to stretch out with their reactions that continue to surprise us, so we're laughing right along with the audience. You never know what they're going to do.
During your career, you've played in concert and festival venues and I'm wondering how that compares to the more intimate setting of a Broadway theater?
Well, any of those concerts or festivals are usually just a one time thing which is cool, and the audiences are always great. But there's something about having a show that repeats itself, where you can really get to know the experience of the show and how the audience reacts to that. You get to know the material on a more personal level. They are very different ballgames, that's for sure.
'13' was your Broadway debut.
The cast was so young and so talented. What was it like working in that atmosphere?
It was cool. You know I was only 18 when I moved out here. I was the oldest one in the cast actually. I was very young, and I had just moved out of my house. I hadn't even gone to college, I moved straight from high school, so at the time it was a little bit overwhelming for me to be thrust in this professional environment. But it was really great and everyone was super helpful. But it was very, 'I can't believe this is really happening. This is amazing.' The Jacobs (Bernard Jacobs Theater) is not the biggest Broadway house, but it felt huge at the time. It felt huge.