WHAT: "The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream."
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: PNC Bank Arts Center, Garden State Parkway, exit 116, Holmdel; 800-745-3000, livenation.com or ticketmaster.com.
HOW MUCH: $25 to $125.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: rascalsdream.com.
If The Rascals could get back together after more than four decades apart -- and still make great music that brings audiences to their feet -- then who's to say that anything is impossible?
That, says Eddie Brigati, is the underlying message of "The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream," which launched with a limited Broadway run in April and is now touring North America -- and set to stop at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Friday.
"Once you see the show, it affects everybody the same way. It's just very powerful," says Brigati, the Garfield native who is one of the two lead singers. "I never dreamed of being on Broadway, and all of a sudden, we're on Broadway, and when those people get up and they love you ... You go away
from it feeling healed. There's a lesson in the whole thing -- about keeping hope. Forty-something years is a long time."
Brigati, who now lives with his wife, singer Susan Lovell Brigati, in Boonton, was on the phone one recent morning from Boston, another stop on the tour.
The show, a hybrid of a rock concert and a theatrical production, brings Brigati together with Jersey City-born Dino Danelli (on drums), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals) and Gene Cornish (guitar). In the 1960s, as The Young Rascals, then The Rascals (they dropped "young" in 1968), they had three No. 1 records and nine Top 20 hits, including "People Got to Be Free," "Groovin'," "Good Lovin'," "How Can I Be Sure?" and "A Beautiful Morning." They were together from 1965 to 1970, then parted ways -- for decades.
"It's very surreal," Brigati says of their reunion. "It's victorious, it's validating, vindicating and it's something that reached a fruition that nobody ever expected."
He adds a "God bless" for Steven Van Zandt and his producing partners, wife Maureen Van Zandt and Marc Brickman. Steven Van Zandt -- the show's writer, co-producer and co-director (with Brickman) -- said in an April interview that he has been a fan of the group since he saw The Young Rascals in concert at the Keyport-Matawan Roller Drome in 1965. For 30 years, Van Zandt said, he had been trying to reunite all four members of the group, who had not performed together in public since 1970.
In the interim, Brigati says, the four continued to play music, just not all together. "We ran into each other, were cordial to each other," Brigati says. He blames the breakup on "lack of management, poor management and no management."
Asked how Van Zandt finally got them back together, Brigati says, "He put all of us in a row, he interviewed us and he just made the whole thing make sense. His insight and his belief in us has been a little deeper than our belief in ourselves. But, having said that, the guys play greater than ever."
How the four came together, and came apart, is told in a film that's projected, in segments, onto a giant screen behind the singers. Each Rascal tells the story from his perspective, with young actors playing them as children and young adults.
Just 19 when the group took off, Brigati never fully realized at the time all they'd accomplished. "The body of work is very positive, universal type music," he says.
Brigati, 67, grew up the youngest of three in Garfield, which he calls the "center of the universe." His father was a bus driver and his mother was a seamstress.
Eddie's brother, David Brigati, older by five years, was a vocalist with Joey Dee and the Starliters, best known for "Peppermint Twist." (A teenage Eddie sang second tenor on the Starliters' 1962 song "What Kind of Love Is This.")
"He was, still is, my main influence," he says of David. "It's a good thing he was a singer. Had he been a hubcaps stealer, we'd both be in jail together."
The early Rascals often played at Garfield's Choo Choo Club, which is now a parking lot, Brigati says. "It was right, literally, 40 feet from the train, and the trains would come and rattle right through your set," he says. "I was raised within 70, 80 feet from the train, so it was a very comforting thing."
In the show, Brigati also largely takes the blame for the group's breakup. Is that true?
"It appeared that that's what happened," he says, adding that it wasn't exactly how Van Zandt described it in the script, but close enough. "I was the youngest member. I was kind of unhooked and squeezed. ... Management didn't protect us. ... We did all that work and we wound up broken and broke."
But all that is in the past. What Brigati would like people to know about The Rascals today is this:
"The show has something for everybody, not in the least for us. " I mean, it's the typical rock-and-roll Summer of Love, '60s, New Jersey barbecue-picnic hoedown. And it's better each night. Really."
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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