Despite a busy schedule as a member of oft-touring Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, a syndicated radio host and actor who graduated from The Sopranos to the Netflix series Lilyhammer, Steven Van Zandt is taking on a new frontier — the stage — with his music-fuelled extravaganza The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream.
The hybrid rock-concert-and-theatre-show blends video projection, archival footage, filmed reenactments, live performance and narration in retelling the story of influential 1960s-era New Jersey band The Rascals. The show had a hit run on Broadway in April.
"They had a chemistry that only a few great bands have. You want to share that with a new generation. Even the fans from back then had rarely seen them live," Van Zandt told CBC News.
"I figured 'Let me write a show that was going to be a whole new idea. It might be interesting.'"
It was Van Zandt who inducted the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and who was able to convince the original members to put aside decades of in-fighting to reunite for this new musical, which he directed and produced.
In addition to high-energy performances by the original members of the band, Once Upon a Dream features the work of renowned lighting and production designer Marc Brickman, whose credits range from Olympics ceremonies, films such as Minority Report and concert tours by artists ranging from Pink Floyd to Black Eyed Peas.
Van Zandt spoke with CBC's Deana Sumanac on Tuesday about The Rascals, how he chooses creative projects and his late friend, Sopranos star James Gandolfini. A month after the actor's death, Van Zandt says he's still devastated.
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"You never recover from these things," he said.
"We had that bond where we would occasionally find ourselves starring in things — being the celebrity, being in the spotlight — but neither one of us was really comfortable with that. We're both naturally sidemen: character actors, whatever you want to call it, the guys behind the guy, just out of the spotlight."
The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream stops in Toronto from Aug. 13-25 before continuing on to dates across the U.S.