Train’s Pat Monahan is looking forward to singing the classics, rather than his classics, when he’s part of the Rocktopia show debuting on Broadway later this month.
“I don’t have any of those inner Tchaikovsky ambitions; I’m gonna channel my inner classic rock singers like Steven Tyler and Robert Plant,” Monahan tells Billboard. Founded by Trans-Siberian Orchestra mainstay Rob Evan and conductor Randall Craig Fleischer, Rocktopia rolls over Beethoven by filling the night mashing up everything from Heart to Handel, including favorites by the Who, Queen, Journey, U2, Foreigner, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Aaron Copland and more.
Rocktopia‘s Great White Way run starts March 20 and runs through April 29 at the Broadway Theatre, with Monahan on board for the first three weeks before Train begins its spring tour with Daryl Hall & John Oates.
“It’s interesting how they mix it all together,” says Monahan, whose portion of the evening will include Train’s hit “Drops Of Jupiter” mixed with “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. “Never having done anything like this and being impressed with everything I’ve seen, it’s cool. Watching Rob sing really was inspiring to me, so being able to help him with this seems fun. And I’ll get to spend a little time in New York, which I’ve wanted to do my whole career.”
Evan, who launched Rocktopia during 2016 and took it around North America last year, adds that he appreciates Monahan’s endorsement. “He gets that it’s not a gimmick, and he’s been generous in saying that he really likes the concept and is here to serve the show,” Evan explains. “That’s important because he’s got a lot of street cred and will get us some people that might not have paid attention to us before.”
The Rocktopia shows will feature a rock band, a 20-piece orchestra and a 40-voice choir, along with a corps of additional singers, including The Voice alumni Tony Vincent and Kimberly Nichole and classical vocalist Alyson Cambridge. This marks the largest edition of the show since Rocktopia: Live From Budapest was filmed during 2016 for PBS. “It’s really a big full-circle thing for me,” says Evan, who made his own Broadway debut 25 years ago at the same theater in Les Miserables. “The show is hard to describe unless you’ve seen it, but we’ve learned what our narrative is as we went along: the idea that if the masters — Beethoven or Mozart or Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky — were alive today they’d be our rock stars. And the other side of that coin is the music of Freddie Mercury or Jimmy Page and Robert Plant or (Pink Floyd) is going to resound well beyond our lifetimes.
“We found this is not a crazy idea. There IS a commonality between these genres, and regardless of what brings you to the show, all of the music touches you.”
With King Kong slated to come into the theater, Rocktopia is fixed for a hard six weeks with no extension. But Evan notes that “we’re a touring rock band, if you will” and he’s already working on a fall tour.
Meanwhile, Monahan is looking forward to having Train on the tracks with Hall & Oates, which starts May 1 in Sacramento. In addition to their own hour-long sets the two acts will join forces for a half-hour collaboration, which will include live performances of a new song called “Philly Fahget Me Not” that he and Hall wrote and the two groups recorded, though no release has been determined yet. “Since I met Daryl at Daryl’s House a few years ago, writing with a guy like that is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Monahan says. “Just being part of that (tour) with them is going to be cool.” Monahan adds that Train may have a single of its own out in time for the tour, possibly one of the new tracks for a greatest hits album Train plans to release this year. And Monahan is already conceptualizing Train’s next studio album to follow up last year’s A Girl, a bottle, a boat.
“That one I want to be different than what would fit on the greatest hits record,” Monahan says. “I don’t want to call it acoustic, but I want to do a record that is much more simply about the song and the vocals and not trying to get on pop radio. I want to just sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and see what that would sound like as a record.”