After lots of pomp and circumstance, and even more uncertainty, the Starlite Theatre finally unveiled “Raiding the Rock Vault” last week for a limited run in Branson. According to Sir Harry Cowell, who produces both “Raiding the Rock Vault,” as well as its “sister show,” “Raiding the Country Vault,” the show has struck a chord with locals and visitors alike.
“I have to say, they’re responding better than I thought,” Cowell said with a laugh. “It has been amazing to see people standing up, cheering and dancing for their favorite songs, even when they weren’t asked to.
“I’ve been around Branson for a while, and I’ve seen several things, but these people were ready to rock, and that’s quite exciting.”
Since debuting in 2014, “Raiding the Rock Vault” has been voted “Best of Las Vegas” for three years, and is frequently referred to as one of the top shows on the famed Las Vegas Strip.
Using narration, video and stories along with classic anthems from The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles, Queen, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Van Halen, Heart, Free, Aerosmith and more, the show flows from the late 1960s, all the way through 1990 to tell the story of classic rock. In addition to featuring dozens of the greatest hits of all time, “Raiding the Rock Vault” also features folks who have played alongside some of the greatest bands and artists in classic rock history.
The Branson lineup features bass player, musical director and Bon Jovi member Hugh McDonald, guitarist Jason Boyleston, formerly of Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, Paul Rogers Band, guitarist Rowan Robertson, formerly of Dio, drummer Matt Starr, formerly of Ace Frehley and Mr. Big, and keyboardist Paul Trudeau of the Billy Idol Band. Holding down the wide array of vocals needed to pull off a show like this are John Bisaha of The Babys; Mark Boals, formerly of Dokken, Ted Nugent; Todd Kerns of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators; Johnny Solinger, formerly of Skid Row; and the show’s only female vocalist, Sarah Hester Ross, formerly of Tracii Guns Band and Rent.
Aside from the cast, Cowell said the Branson version isn’t too different from the one currently headlining the Vinyl Room in Las Vegas.
“There isn’t really that much of a difference between the two shows, the set, the songs and the backdrop are all the same, except we’ve got a much bigger stage here,” Cowell said. “We started at the Tropicana, now we’re at the Vinyl Room, which is a much smaller stage, so these guys are loving it.
“They’ve got much more of a chance to run here, and that makes it a better show, I believe.”
Even though several cast members have been featured in the “Rock Vault” show before, and some have even played together at other times, the entire band had never played together before last week’s Thursday night opening. When asked how long it took them to get on the same page, musically speaking, Cowell smiled and said “three hours.”
“One of the key issues we had getting everyone here was the bad weather,” Cowell said. “The Dallas airport was closed last Wednesday, so our singers didn’t get in until 2 p.m. Thursday, and we had a show at 7:30 p.m. that evening. These are pros, and they just got in and did it, and it turned out great.”
Cowell said the cast was also interested in getting out and exploring everything there is to see and do in Ozark Mountain Country.
“They seem to like it so far, and are looking forward for a couple of off days to go check out Top of the Rock, and other things like that,” he said. “A couple of them have already ventured downtown, and they had no idea what to expect, but they really loved it.”
While the show’s inaugural run in Branson isn’t quite a week old, Cowell said they’re already discussing a “Rock Vault” return.
“I’m not sure we’ll be back this year, but we are definitely coming back next summer,” Cowell said. “Absolutely right we will. And obviously, ‘Raiding the Country Vault’ will carry on here next year, as well. The way that we see it, and that you all who live here know, is that Branson is on the rise. It’s a happening place, and people need to come and check it out. That’s the way I see it.”
“Raiding the Rock Vault” will run at the Starlite Theatre until July 22, with 7:30 p.m. performances Tuesday through Saturday.