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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Rocks Beethoven at the Tower

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Jeff Scott Soto as MephistophelesTrans-Siberian Orchestra's inaugural live performance, at the Tower Theatre, of "Beethoven's Last Night“ --last night on earth-- combines what happened with what might have happened; the story revolves around the tough choice that the composer must make with what will be his life's legacy. 

When Paul O'Neill first conceived Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his goal was as straightforward as it was ambitious. "The whole idea," he explains, "was to do a progressive rock band that would push the boundaries further than any band before, following in the footsteps of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, The Who...but take it way, way further." 

It’s March 26, 1827, and the nearly deaf composer’s life is winding down. Mephistopheles shows up to tell Beethoven he’s on his way to hell. Despite all those great syphonies he’s penned, Beethoven’s being judged and is found wanting. But here’s the bargain; It’s either Beethoven or his music that will be hurled into the abbyss and he has one hour to decided his fate.

Coincidentially, a woman named Fate takes Beethoven back in time and offers to change things, but tells him that his great music is a result of his tumoltous life. The decision gets progressively complicated for Beethoven as he revistis his past and things get really dicey as the devil plays cat and mouse with the terms. 

"I've always believed that music has the power to transport," O'Neill explains. "The original concept of Trans-Siberian Orchestra was how to make music have the most emotional impact. We always try to write melodies so they're so infectious they don't need lyrics and lyrics so poetic and cutting they'll stand up in poetry books, but when you hear the two together you create an alloy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole and you cannot imagine them apart." 

Bob Evans as BeethovenIn this case, I’m not sure that concept is as effective as they had hoped it would be. The storyline crosses over into an overly complicated plot that is narrated by an overly animated Bryan Hicks who indeed grabs the audience, but after 2 hours the audience may be squirming to be free of “A Christmas Carol” style reading. 

However the mix of masterful music, some stellar soloists and those always impressive lights and lasers that are the hallmark of the TSO more than carry the show. 

Al Pitrelli, TSO composer and an original member led the group on stage. With a wonderful line up of master musicians such as Chris Caffery on guitar, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass and Plate, on drums. Violinist Roddy Chong offers an outstanding performance while running and kicking his way round the stage. 

The soloists each represent a major character in the story. It is through the singers that the drama unfolds. The female chorus also provided a majority of the dancing, John Brink dramatically sang as the Young Beethoven. 

The main soloists are well suited for their roles, and each brought passion and soul to their characters. Jeff Scott Soto was purely wicked as Mephistopheles, his dark presence always menacing and foreboding. Valentina Porter was stirring and soaring as Fate. Chloe Lowery brought power, sensuality and caring to Theresa. Inside her voice you could hear the yearning, the aching for her lost love. Beethoven, who was the nucleus of all the attention, was played by Rob Evan, who is no stranger to the TSO. Evan proves once more why they return to him to capture the power and passion of their wildly popular concert events as he commands the stage with a voice that both rocks the rafters and reaches the heart. 

Rob was kind enough to share his experience with the TSO:

“I met Paul O'Neill, the founder of the band, in 2001. He had seen me during the "Jekyll days" on Broadway and was looking for someone to play/sing the role of Beethoven in his live concert version of the album that had already been released. I loved the music and sang for him. At that point in time, the band was gearing up for a potential tour of the Beethoven's Last Night project. 

Al Pitrelli, composer, lead guitarThe band's success with their first two Christmas albums and their live Christmas tour was growing exponentially. What started as a three or four city tour in 1999 is now a two month tour that is seen by well over a million people each year. I began touring with the Christmas show and the Beethoven project was put on hold. I continued to work with Paul and the band and I was lucky enough to be featured on the next two albums, The Lost Christmas Eve and last year's release of Night Castle, which debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top 100. Paul is absolutely a man of vision, both long and short term. Therefore, he came to me at the beginning of this last Christmas tour and asked if I was ready to revisit "Ludvig." I gratefully accepted his offer." 

And Rob's thoughts about playing the role of Beethoven? 

“I have always been a fan of this masterful composer. I think that his life was equally compelling. There is so much passion in his melodies. I cannot imagine how he was able to create such works on top of being almost totally deaf. In our show, which is really a hybrid between theater and full-blown rock concert, I sing some pretty heavy songs packed with a boat load of emotion. I am a sucker for both classical and rock, so I think the transference from strings to electric guitar is amazing! I think Beethoven was definitely a "rock star" in his time." 

“Beethoven’s Last Night” is without a doubt an impressive entertaining spectacle of great music and stellar voices appealing to the young and young at heart alike. 

For more information about the tour visit www.trans-siberian.com

PHOTOS BY: Peter Ferling, http://ferling.net/TSO_Beethoven_Tower.htm