Park88’s A Rockin’ Cabaret goes ‘Under the Influence’
Park88, the local music duo composed of Rich Wyman and his wife, Lisa Needham, will hit the Rockwell Listening Room stage on Dec. 28 to premier A Rockin’ Cabaret.
“A Rockin’ Cabaret is a song-and-story brand that we are creating to bring to Park City every year between Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Hanukkah and New Years,” Needham said, “We will do a different theme every year, and this year’s is called ‘Under the Influence.’”
“Under the Influence” will not include any original Park88 songs, Needham said.
“Instead, we will play a collection of cover songs that have influenced us; and by us, I don’t just mean Richard and me,” she said. “When I say ‘us,’ I mean us, as a culture, throughout the ages.”
Wyman, who didn’t want to give away too much of the show, said his performances will focus on the piano.
“As a piano player, I will touch on Jerry Lee Lewis, who is probably one of the biggest influences of all time in rock ‘n’ roll piano,” Wyman said. “I’ll also gravitate to other epic piano songs from artists like The Beatles, Queen and Peter Gabriel.”
Needham’s lineup includes pop’s female trailblazers, such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Etta James.
“Back when I started singing, there weren’t a lot of female recording artists like there are today,’ she said. “So, when Carole would release a new song, I wanted to learn it right away.”
In addition to performing songs, the duo will tell stories about their experiences as budding musicians back in the day.
Wyman will talk about the Russian piano teacher he had when he was growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“I was 14, and she spoke no English,” he said. “Instead of telling me what to do, she would physically put my fingers, wrists, shoulders and elbows where she wanted them to be.”
Although Wyman only spent a short time with this piano teacher, he will never forget her.
“I never had a teacher like her,” he said. “I still have the music of a Beethoven sonata she was teaching me. The cover is all in Russian, but when you opened it, the score was in Italian. I’ll never lose that.”
Piano teachers aren’t the only subjects of Wyman’s planned stories.
“I will also talk about Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and the Gershwins, all of those greats who had an influence on me,” he said.
Needham, on the other hand, will talk about her time as a singing waitress on New York’s upper west side.
“The singing took the stress out of being a waitress, but sometimes when you were singing, you could hear the cooks in the kitchen yelling, ‘Where is Lisa? Doesn’t she know her food is up?’”
A Rocklin’ Cabaret’s audience members will also get the chance to talk about the music that influenced their lives, Wyman said.
“We have a section where they will give us a list of songs, and if we know the songs, we’ll pick some out and play them,” he said.
The band that will accompany Wyman and Needham consists of drummer Jordan Saltmarsh, bassist Josh Larsen and guitarist and saxophonist Eric Magnum.
“Jordan has played with us for most of this year, because our regular drummer Eric Munoz is a full-time audio engineer and is constantly on tour,” Wyman said. “He recommended Jordan, whose dad Ron was a Nashville music guy who moved to Utah to teach at BYU.”
Saltmarsh, in turn, recommended Larsen, who is known as the bassist for Utah bluegrass group, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband.
“These young guys are on the ball,” Wyman said, “They arrive to rehearsals on time. They have learned the music and they are ready to work.”
Needham, who wrote, produced and performed a one-woman show more than 15 years ago at the Egyptian Theatre, came up with the idea for A Rockin’ Cabaret.
“I have always enjoyed performing theatre and telling stories,” she said. “One day, Rich said we should do this, and I just took it and ran.”
Needham did have to jump a few hurdles while writing the show’s script, she said.
“We’ve been pulling in stories and ideas from all over the place, and we had to decide whether or not those influences have also influenced others,” Needham said. “Then Richard told me he could just wing it. I told him that we couldn’t do that, because it’s theater as well as live music.”
Wyman and Needham hired Jessica Lynn Johnson, a producer from L.A. who works with actors and singers on their theatrical shows, to help them mold the script.
Stacy Dymalski, who now lives in Los Angeles and does her own one-woman show, referred Wyman and Needham to Johnson.
“During our one-hour phone sessions we read what we have and Jessica tells us what we need to add or take out,” Needham said.
The Rockwell Listening Room is the perfect setting for A Rockin’ Cabaret, according to Needham
“The band is on the stage, but the piano is off the stage, and I’ll be moving around the audience,” she said.
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