Promising a "Funtabulous" experience combining live music and theater, the Rockbox Theater opens its doors in downtown Fredericksburg this weekend. The venue will offer four performances of a new two-hour show every weekend. Photo by Phil Houseal
All shows are approximately 2 hours in length with an intermission. Seats can be reserved by calling 997-ROCK (7625), or toll-free (866) 349-6688. Seats are $35 - $40, with discounts for seniors and active military. Ages 17 and under are half price. More information is at www.rockboxtheater.com.
by Phil Houseal
After months of planning, amid setbacks and successes, the Rockbox Theater throws open its doors this weekend.
The venue and concept is so new to the Fredericksburg music scene, they had to create a word to describe it. That word is "Funtabulous."
I stopped by a rehearsal last week to see if I could figure out what it means.
The troupe was readying the show for opening night. Singers ran through lyrics. The drummer memorized musical cues. The soundman tracked down feedback.
All the while, workers wielding saws, hammers, and drills were busy putting the finishing touches on turning the former furniture store into an elegant 390-seat theater. Despite the distractions, everyone seemed focus on creating an immersive audience experience.
But exactly what will that be? A concert? A show? A theater production?
"All of the above," said Creative Director Russ Hearn. Hearn, co-founder of Granbury Live, moved to Fredericksburg with his wife, Wendy, and a resident cast of entertainers in order to help develop the Rockbox Theater. "We are going to present a professional variety live-music show that guarantees family-friendly entertainment."
For inspiration and material, Hearn is reaching back to the music of the 1950s through the 1980s, a time Hearn considers "the golden era of rock and roll."
And while they ran through songs by Dion and the Big Bopper, they emphasized that this will not be just another rock and roll reunion. Hearn hopes to embrace the influence of TV from the same era. Unlike in Granbury, where the group would present a library of shows for three to five years, Hearn has given himself the creative challenge of producing a new live show every weekend.
"I go back to the live TV approach," he said. "We will get together Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to script out the show. We run rehearsals on Thursday and Friday, and then we do it!"
They won't exactly be starting from scratch every week. The group holds seven years' worth of material from its run at Granbury Live. There, the band honed its licks while entertaining a quarter of a million visitors for more than 1500 shows. They hope to duplicate that success, while tweaking the show to fit the sensibilities of the Hill Country.
"Texas music has this wide cultural impact," Hearn said. "Everybody knows Buddy Holly is from Texas, but do they know Scott Joplin first played the piano in Texas? Some of the great blues musicians played in Dallas before they moved to Chicago. Elvis did 121 dates in Texas. Those are the kinds of stories we want to tell."
A torrent of Texas talent flows through the Hill Country, so Hearn plans to feature a guest artist every week.
"That is one of the things I am very excited about. We really want to showcase new talent. We've never had the opportunity to bring such a depth of talent into what we do."
There's plenty of talent in the veteran troupe, which has worked together since 1999. In addition to Russ and Wendy Hearn, performers include singers Carey and Dena Dyer, Cass Moore on keyboards, vocalist Linda Morgan, T.J. Smith on guitar (and any instrument with strings), along with new hires Gary Miles on bass and Jacob Longoria on drums. A large crew behind the scenes runs the lights, sound, costumes, and ticket sales.
All that remains to be put in place is the audience. Hearn and his troubadours have faith they will show up.
"Where does one hear live music these days if you are looking for a theatrical type experience?" Hearn asks. "You can go to Branson or Las Vegas, but you don't really need to go there."
Now you can just walk down the street to the Rockbox Theater. It promises to be... "Funtabulous."