Like a number of legendary bands from the 1960s, The Rascals’ time in the spotlight was short and sweet. But, as the Broadway musical production, Once Upon A Dream proves, the quartet’s moment-in-the sun was highly inspiring. Just ask Steven Van Zandt, the polymath figure best known as Bruce Springsteen’s right-hand band mate and, as an actor, for playing Silvio on The Sopranos.
Back in 1965, the Rascals were the first pop group fellow New Jersey-ite Van Zandt ever saw; 48 years later, and still a rabid fan, he has (with collaborators) conceived, produced, directed and written a theatrical/concert piece that tells the story of the band as couched in the context of the historic era in which they thrived. Best of all, Dream reunites the original Rascals, whose members —keyboardist and singer Felix Cavaliere, vocalist Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli — have only briefly played together since 1970.
During the three years they were major hit makers (1965 to 1968), The Rascals established themselves as the premier “blue-eyed soul” outfit; that is, a white musical group that based its sound on black Rhythm and Blues. Mating rock and roll attitude with soulful fervor, the group found success with such emblematic singles as “Good Lovin’,” “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “A Girl Like You,” and sophisticated pop creations like “Groovin’ ” , “How Can I Be Sure” and “It’s A Beautiful Morning”; “People Got to Be Free,” The Rascals’ last major hit, was also one of the band’s three chart toppers.
If Once Upon A Dream is a dream come true for Van Zandt, it’s one he’d better savor: the show, opening April 16th, is scheduled to last only 15 performances.
Steve Van Zandt inducts the Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hal of Fame in 1997. This from-the heart-of Jersey speech is what supposedly alerted producer David Chase to Van Zandt’s acting potential.
A rocking version of “Good Lovin’” back when the band were still “The Young Rascals” —hence the goofball outfits.
A hipper edition of the band digs into their last major hit.