LIVE: “Rabbbits in Delusionville” @ The Falcon, 1/6/18
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
Contemporary artist Ron English and musician-composer Joe Johnson teamed up to compose “Rabbbits in Delusionville,” a complex rock opera that has been recorded for a four-CD set.
Excerpts from the opera had their performance premiere at The Falcon in Marlboro last weekend, backed by projections/animations, as well as English’s paintings – jarring neo-psychedelic pop art images of cartoon characters and a world that is somewhat familiar yet altered to show its true nature, Delusion.
Delusionville is an alternative world inhabited by animals who have fallen down a rabbit hole. The types of animals represent the various segments of society. Buzzards are land-owning royalty. Pigs are the upper class, who are tax collectors and bankers. Sheep are the inventors and keepers of spirituality. The turtles are complacent creatures. The ducks are “quacks,” selling beliefs that are actually placebos. The wolves used to rule in prehistory but are now relegated to the wrong side of the tracks.
Caught in the middle of all this are the rabbits. The main character is a three-headed rabbit and aspiring artist Ronnie, who tries to take it all in, making him absolutely insane.
Sound mind-blowing? It was! As a matter of fact, it was difficult to take it all in at one listening. Several descriptions come to mind:
“Alice in Wonderland” on steroids
“Animal Farm” on acid
Political Looney Tunes
Nightmarish Saturday morning cartoons/commercials
Like Orwell’s 20th century classic “Animal Farm,” “Rabbbits in Delusionville” could be taken on a number of different levels from those of a child to the symbolism of its many animals, their actions and personalities.
The songs and performances were accessible and fun. There were teenagers in the audience that were grooving to the rock and hip-hop beats of many of the songs. The Package – bassist Brandon Morrison, keyboardist Will Bryant and drummer Lee Falco – provided the solid rhythm section for the music. They’re the house band at Levon Helm Studios and have toured with Donald Fagen among others. For “RiD” they were joined by Joe Johnson on lead guitar.
Elements of avant-garde, Latin and hard rock were also represented. All members of the band contributed vocals, while Christine Rodriguez, Rhiannon Parsaca and Rowan Parsaca sang the roles of some of the animals. Russ Cusick as Ronnie, provided the lead male vocal, his Julliard-trained voice balancing precision with passion, making for an interesting contrast to the opera’s closing punk rock-based song.
Like classical opera, this piece demands repeated listenings to fully comprehend all the nuances and meanings, so you might want to spend some time in Delusionville yourself.
More of Ron English’s artwork from “Delusionville” is on exhibit at Gallery @ the Falcon in Marlboro through the end of January.
GO HERE to see more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of this performance…