Rocktopia’s triumphant homecoming

Randall Craig Fleischer had to be overwhelmed with happiness at the sold-out audience that greeted Rocktopia last week.

Fleischer, the conductor and music director of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, co-created the live music show with Broadway star Rob Evan several years ago.

Rocktopia is a unique mashup of classical music by the great composers (think Beethoven, Bach and Mozart) and classic rock (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Heart, Foreigner).

It premiered to little fanfare at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown in 2012.

But its return performance Friday at the same venue had a “this is the place to be” aura that reached the top row of the balcony.

Fleischer clearly felt it.

At a point in the show during which the cast was introduced, a beaming Fleischer took the microphone and said “it feels like we’ve come full circle.” It was not just a reference to the show’s return to where it started, but also to how far it has come.

Rockopia has been made into a PBS special, and had a run on Broadway early this year.

The current tour is bigger than ever, with rock singer Dee Snider of Twisted Sister as part of the cast of seven vocalists.

Rocktopia alternately switches between classical interludes by the orchestra, led by Fleischer, to rock classics. A choir accompanied the orchestra, and a rock band, led by Tony Bruno (guitarist for Rihanna), was positioned at the front of the stage.

An electronic backdrop provides visuals to accompany each song.

But the show would be extremely visual without it, thanks to barefoot violinist Mairead Nesbitt, who stalked the stage, and a cadre of transfixing singers. Nesbitt, by the way, will return to Powers on March 9 to accompany the YSO in its “Celtic Sounds” concert.

Evan was unable to perform at the Powers show due to sore vocal cords, but it was no matter. The singers who were there were riveting, their voices were huge, and their stage presence was commanding – as would be expected by a rock star (Snider), a pop singer from NBC’s “The Voice” (We McDonald), opera singers (including Alyson Cambridge), Chloe Lowery of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and others from the opera and Broadway worlds.


Rocktopia was dazzling, but it was bookended by two other great concerts last week in the Mahoning Valley.

Keith Urban returned to Covelli Centre on Oct. 24, and seemed genuinely floored by the sold-out and raucous audience that greeted him on a Wednesday night.

The pop-country pioneer, amont the top tier of Nashville talent, is touring his “Graffiti U” album with opener Kelsea Ballerini.

Then there was Saturday’s concert by rock legend Alice Cooper at Packard Music Hall in Warren.

I’ve seen his theatrical show before, but it was as much fun as the first time, and Cooper’s ghastly horror theatrics and props were perfect for Halloween.

The ageless Alice Cooper is still great at what he does, and his shows are way more than just a concert.


Grammy Award-winning flautist Nestor Torres will be in residence Wednesday through Friday of next week at Youngstown State University.

On Wednesday, Torres will teach the YSU Jazz Ensemble and YSU Jazz Quintet in room 2222 of Bliss Hall from 3 to 5 p.m. He will host a master class for the jazz combos in the same room at 1 p.m. Nov. 8 and will lead a flute seminar at noon Nov. 9 in Bliss Hall.

His visit will culminate in a concert, free to the public, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Hub at Kilcawley Center, with the YSU Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Quintet.

Guy D’Astolfo covers entertainment for The Vindicator.