Review: Arts Club's "Red Rock Diner"

Review: Arts Club’s “Red Rock Diner”

Given the amount of twisting, shouting, and every other dance move on the planet, it’s hard to imagine how the cast of Red Rock Diner feels after nearly two and a half hours of non stop movement. The ensemble group deliver nearly 50 classic rock n’ roll hits throughout the performance, each delivered with more gusto, showmanship, and performance elements than the last.

The show centers around real live Vancouver rock DJ Red Robinson (Neil Minor) and his rise to fame in the ’50s, creating a name for himself and the artists he played, meeting the likes of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly on the way. Minor shines as Robinson, co-delivering a historic Vancouver icon, showcasing on the important role he played in putting Vancouver on the musical map, while also exhibiting Robinson’s bad boy side, pulling pranks and nearly getting axed from the radio station for his stunts.

With Robinson’s DJ booth perched atop the stage, the entire ground served as a throwback ’50s diner vibe, authentic to detail (as per Arts Club norm) down to every last fountain glass and bar stool. A rotating cast of singers and musicians did most of the heavy lifting, constantly rotating records like a jukebox, switching from “Dream Lover” to “Wipe Out” to “Teenager In Love” at the drop of the hat.

Red Rock Diner is much less of a play than Arts Club is accustomed to producing, but much of the company’s 50th season this year has seen bold and daring choices, most of which have been triumphs. Diner is no exception to that, constantly engaging the audience to smile and clap along to its countless ditties, even engaging members of the audience for a special interactive component during its second half, which takes place at a Robinson-emceed prom party.

It might be gratuitous to try and wedge more of a plot in here than there is, as Robinson’s story is really all about the music anyway. All of the hits he helped break in North America are here, from Paul Anka’s “Diana” to Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” (performed with untouched gusto by star of the show Colin Sheen as Johnny B). But really, there is no off note here, as the cast and crew are so tight and on their toes that it both feels sublimely produced and excitingly spontaneous at the same time.

If you blink, you’re likely to miss a handful of moments here, so stay on the edge of your seat as the cast and crew of Arts Club’s season closer Red Rock Diner take you for a wild ride back into the 1950s, and make you wonder why music was so much more fun and free then than it is now.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone in the crowd who didn’t have a good time watching it.


Arts Club’s Red Rock Diner runs through August 2 at The Granville Island Stage. Tickets are available here.

All photographs of the cast of Arts Club Theatre Company’s Red Rock Diner by Emily Cooper.