Rock and Roll Refugee produced by Royal Family Productions at 145 West 46th Street 3rd floor, is the true life story of Genya Ravan. Born in Poland and Jewish, her family arrives in America via the Holocaust. At just seven years old Genyusha (Dee Roscioli) arrives in the United States in 1947, accompanied by her parents (Charlotte Cohn and Chris Thorm) and her sister Helen (Kristn Nemecek). She had two brothers, who died before she ever got to know them. In America she is renamed named ‘Goldie’ by her mother who claimed Genyusha is not American enough. She is rebellious, confused and belligerent not knowing why she has left all she has known. Her father’s black assistant Louie (DeAngelo Kearns) who she deems as brown gives her a radio in which she learns english and song. Her upstairs neighbor (Michael Liscio) rapes her at seven and tells her if she says anything he will kill her sister. In silence she keeps this to herself. Her father turns alcoholic and abusive, her mother demanding. At 13 she poses topless and at 16 is married off to a man who is 35 years old, who promises to allow her time before he sleeps with her. When he lies, three days after her marriage she takes off for California. Returning back to New York a year later her sister dares her to get up at a club to sing. The rest as we say is history.
Genya is played by two women and a child. The child; Imogene Williams is the girl she never truly gets to be, who shows the actress version, Dee Roscioli the future, Katrina Rose Dideriksen. All three are fabulous. Ms Dideriksen has one kick ass rock voice singing most of the score. “Cheesecake Girl,” “Shot In The Heart,” “Lady of the Harbor,” “Pedal To The Medal” “202 Rivington Street” and others are given a realistic rendition. Ms Roscioli is truly a wonderful actress and singer, after all she played Elphaba in Wicked. Her “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody” are heartfelt.
Director Chris Henry keeps our attention with JoAnn M. Hunter and Liz Ramos choreography adding a spark. Daniel A. Weiss’s musical direction is spot on but Danny Ersberg and Jeanne Wu need to tone down their sound design so lyrics are not drummed out by the static.
Chris Henry’s book is tough but really allows us to know Genya Ravan’s personality and life and we truly feel as if we know her. Genya Ravan who also did the music and lyrics is the true star of this piece and it is wonderful to see her story of survival and spunk against all odds. Watch our interview with this remarkable legend of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Video shot by James Chladek.
If you love rock and roll and the people who brought it to life, you will love this piece.
Rock and Roll Refugee: Royal Family Productions until March 8th 145 West 46th Street 3rd Floor