October 30, 2014
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Johnston actor relives the Rascals

You’d hardly expect a 23-year-old actor from Johnston to be familiar with a 1960s rock and roll band, but Ryan Boudreau was a little taken aback when he learned that so many of the songs that are still being played on radio were done by the Rascals.

“I knew some of the songs, but I wasn’t really aware of the group,” he said in an interview last Sunday. “Then I played one of the band members and heard the band live and I was amazed. These guys are all like 70 years old and they can really rock. They just sound so good for guys who played together 40 years ago.”

Those of us of a certain age have known the Rascals rocked since the mid-1960s, when “Good Lovin’” was a party anthem for part-time Bohemians who shed their shirts and ties and boogied on down to the go-go. We’d all bust out of our straight jobs, jump into jeans and do the countdown:

“One, two, three…Good lovin’…Good lovin’…Good lovin’” and the Rascals described their visit to the doctor and the simple prescription that good loving was all you need.

Of course, not all the drugs people were doing back then were prescribed by doctors and the Young Rascals, as they were called originally, never overtly advocated the use of drugs, but their songs like “Groovin’” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning” were the accompaniment for many a smoke-hazed pastoral excursion.

It being the 1960s, the Rascals acknowledge the counter culture ethics of freedom and liberty for all with their real anthem song, “People Got To Be Free.” The Rascals were doing what became known as “blue-eyed soul” music. It was unapologetically borrowed from some of the older rhythm and blues bands. “Good Lovin’” is one instance where the white band cover is considered by many to actually be better than the original version done by the Olympics.

In his book, “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” rock and roll critic Dave Marsh said, “the greatest example of a remake surpassing the quality of the original without changing a thing about the arrangement.”

Marsh went even further when he declared that “Good Lovin’” all by itself was enough to expose the idiocy of saying rock and roll was just white musicians stealing from blacks.

But, if Marsh is lavish in his praise of the Rascals, his enthusiasm pales next to the devotion that actor and musician Steve Van Zandt holds for the Rascals. He nominated and introduced the Rascals to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and mounted a Broadway Show built around the reunion of the Rascals this spring. The show features the original Rascals: Felix Cavaliere, keyboards; Eddie Brigati, vocals; Dino Danelli, drums; and Gene Cornish, guitar in concert on the stage. They are augmented by news and television footage of the Rascals and some artistically licensed re-enactment of seminal moments in the careers of the original Rascals.

That’s where Ryan Boudreau comes in. Boudreau has been slowly building a list of credits as a screen actor. He has appeared in independent films like the “Cockle Cove Inn,” studio productions like “Grown Ups 2” and, although he plays one on television, he is not really the murderer in “Murder On the Menu,” doing yet another re-enactment for the show “Unusual Suspects.”

“This was a very big crime in Danbury, Connecticut, and I got to play the murderer, which is a pretty big part,” said Boudreau. “It was a cold case until some kids walking along a road started finding plastic bags with body parts inside. The police finally put the pieces of the crime together and arrest me.”

The show has already aired so you can’t consider it a spoiler if we tell you the murderer was actually a cook in the victim’s restaurant and it was his professional butchering of the course that put the police onto him. When they needed someone to re-enact drummer Dino Danelli in the Rascals show, Boudreau jumped at the chance. It was another paying role and another credit for the résumé, and actors live or die by their résumé. It doesn’t matter how many prestigious productions you have done, it’s how many different things have you been in. The more diverse the roles, the more roles come your way. Playing a murderer, among other things, displays an actor’s range.

“I’d actually like to do romantic comedy,” said Boudreau, who certainly has the leading man looks necessary for that genre. Boudreau is one of those rare creatures that dropped out of high school but went back to college. After several unexciting jobs, like doing landscaping or working in boatyards, he learned that there were people in Rhode Island that appeared in films and got paid for it.

“About a year out of CCRI, I learned that they pay you real money to act,” said Boudreau. “When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, but I started thinking being an actor was a cooler job.”

Perhaps it is, but it’s the kind of job that requires constant attention, self-promotion and persistence, but Boudreau is willing to put in the hours.

“I know so many actors who have gotten some steam going in their careers but they just fall off,” he said. “I don’t want to be that guy.”

Boudreau hopes that being associated with a show like “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream” will lead to more roles. It certainly will give him exposure and having worked with Steve Van Zandt on the “Rascals” will do his résumé little harm.

Van Zandt is probably better known for his role as Silvio Dante in the HBO series “The Sopranos” than he is as a guitar player for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. The Rascals show is called a “BioConcert” by its producers and was staged at the Richard Rogers Theatre. Although not exactly a smash hit, the show made respectable money on Broadway, enough to prompt the formation of a touring version of the show. It is scheduled to run in Connecticut and Boston, with all kinds of stops in between. The producers call “Once Upon A Dream” a hybrid of a rock concert and a Broadway show, “Rock N Soul dance party meets the Jersey Boys.” The history of the Rascals, and the history of the ’60s through their music is “dramaticized” with narration and filmed scenes.

“There are elements of the staging and light design never seen before just as Marc Brickman has done in his previous groundbreaking work with Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Blue Man Group, the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and Roger Waters recent The Wall tour,” according to the producers.

Whatever they say about it, you have to say it was a success. There are still enough people who remember the Summer of Love and all the songs that make up the soundtrack of the 1960s. They came to see the Rascals, even younger people like Ryan Boudreau, who are just discovering the music of the Rascals and, through the music, discovering the history of the last part of the last century.

It will be a nostalgia trip for some of us, but for Boudreau and his generation, it will be bit of an adventure to hear and see what young people were doing back then. Although only the film of Boudreau and the other re-enactors appeared on stage during the show’s run, they were all invited back for a curtain call for the last show at the Richard Rodgers.

“I was never much interested in acting on Broadway, but there I was on a Broadway stage, getting a standing ovation,” said Boudreau. “I liked it.”


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