ORLANDO — The title of the Fringe show is “So You Say You Want a Revolution …” and it does feature songs from the 1960s, particularly the works of the Beatles and John Lennon.
What it doesn’t have is a large cast like the musical “Hair” to take us back to the late 1960s, and the age of Flower Power, Vietnam War protests, the hippie movement and the civil rights protests. “So you Want” is a nostalgic trip, no question, performed by the man who goes by the professional name Piano Bob — better known as Robert Azzarito. Now retired, he recalls coming of age during the 1960s and the major impact it had on his life.
Throughout the show, Piano Bob performs a number of songs, mostly solo works by Lennon like “Instant Karma,” “Gimme Some Truth,” and others. It starts to feel more like a Lennon tribute show than a revival of the 1960s, since Lennon’s music gets the most attention here, as well as some of the late singer/songwriter’s quotes about peace, love and harmony.
Fringe festivals are a popular spot for solo performers, who write, direct and act in their productions. It’s also a popular venue for those who sing and perform music, as Piano Bob does here.
But at first, it doesn’t seem like the show will amount to more than a salute to Lennon. It changes just a bit when Piano Bob notes that he’s retired after four decades as a teacher. From there, the show begins to develop its main message — that the music, attitudes and concepts of the late 1960s are still relevant today, and if applied correctly, could help solve a lot of society’s problems.
There’s no question this is a heartfelt piece by Azzarito, and that his heart is in the right place. But the show could use a better structure. It feels more like a teacher who has created a power point presentation for a class of students, and decided to perform some songs himself to give the kids a sense of what the 1960s meant to his generation.
It’s also odd that Azzarito would choose to play recordings of some songs — Lennon’s “Mother,” and songs by Supertramp and Harry Chapin — and then do his own version of other songs, like the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” He’s a fine singer and pianist, but at 45 minutes the production feels more like an extended class presentation than a strong solo show.
Azzarito also raises more questions than he answers. What was his own life’s journey like from the 1960s on? How have his attitudes shifted as each decade went into the next? What kind of revolution does he favor today?
In the future, Azzarito might want to shift the show away a bit from Lennon, and carry us more on his own path to 2016.
“So You Say You Want a Revolution …” is being performed at the Purple Venue (the Patron’s Room at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center) on the following dates:
* Today at 9:15 p.m.
* Wednesday May 25 at 5:30 p.m.
* Thursday May 26 at 7 p.m.
* Saturday May 28 at 11 a.m.
* Sunday May 29 at 2 p.m.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..