The Jason Donovan Band debuted a brand new show at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland this past weekend. The setup of the show was truly brilliant. A first set of music from iconic movies followed by a performance of the entire Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. The combination meant that this show was going to be a winner whether you were a huge Rocky Horror fan or just a big movie buff. Add to that the fact that the musicians in the band were top-notch performers, some of the best that Northeast Ohio have to offer. An excellent 3-piece horn section led the way, but Donovan’s guitar work was exceptional throughout and the band as a whole played their parts brilliantly.
The first set focused on music from a variety of films. “Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction opened the show and was an absolute first-set highlight. I never appreciated just how fast and intricate this surf rock classic was until I saw it performed live, but the band absolutely nailed it. The band moved into “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” and “Don’t You Forget About Me” with Ryan Bunetta taking lead vocals for those. The band continued to hit on classic movie tunes, including “Holiday Road” from National Lampoon’s Vacation, “American Girl” (which has been featured in movies such as Silence of the Lambs and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.” The pair of female vocalists, Corinne Henahan and Cassy Lewis, supplied some of the biggest first set highlights with an absolutely stellar performance of The Bangles version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” and the set-closing “Road to Nowhere.”
As excellent as the first set was, the Rocky Horror Picture Show set was truly special. The opening “Science Fiction/Double Feature” was as sensual as it should be, and the combination of Bradley Linderman and Cassy Lewis as Brad and Janet absolutely nailed “Dammit Janet.” The next couple of songs built up to the introduction of Ryan Bunetta as Dr. Frank N. Furter, and he absolutely owned the role. I’ve seen Rocky Horror with the shadow cast in movie theaters a couple of times, but this was several steps up from anything I had ever seen. While all of the vocalists did a great job mixing their singing with the performance aspect, Bunetta encapsulated the role of Frank completely. Every single action and movement was done with intent and purpose. Coupling that with his vocal ability and the jaw-dropping costume meant that he was the absolute focus every time he was on stage. It was simply impossible to take your eyes off of him as a commanding presence.
Musically the Rocky Horror set hit on all notes. The band moved between the greaser rock of “Hot Patootie-Bless My Soul” to the overtly sexual “I Can Make You A Man” to the sweet and sentimental “Don’t Dream It, Be It” with no problem. Covering a rock and roll musical like Rocky Horror takes a lot of flexibility, but the band was up the task and absolutely had the necessary range. After ending the second set with the “Science Fiction/Double Feature” reprise the band came back for an encore. Cassy Lewis gave her best vocal performance of the evening with “I Will Always Love You” which included a reprise of “Don’t Dream It, Be It” to end the night.
While this was the first time the Jason Donavan Band has performed this show they’ve already said that they’re planning several more performances in Ohio and neighboring states. It’s the type of show that almost anyone should enjoy. Great music, awesome songs, and an absolutely killer Rocky Horror Picture Show set. I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to see this on stage.
The Jason Donovan Band will be performing their “Tribute To The Movies/Rocky Horror Live!” show at The Winchester in Lakewood, Ohio on April 1. Tickets are on available here.