Interview: Rocktopia guitarist Tony Bruno discusses upcoming Broadway run with Train’s Pat Monahan
Photo courtesy PFA Media and used with permission

Rocktopia, the musical production that fuses classic rock hits with classical compositions will be making its Broadway premiere from March 20 to April 29 at The Broadway Theatre in New York City.

For it's six-week engagement, the live concert will be performed by a diverse array of rock, Broadway, and opera vocalists backed by a symphony orchestra, choir and  rock band performing the works of artists like Journey, Mozart, Queen, Tchaikovsky, Heart, Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Copland, The Who and more.

As part of the musical celebration, Grammy-award winning lead vocalist, Pat Monahan (Train), will also be making his Broadway debut in Rocktopia and will perform multiple songs throughout the show, including “Kashmir” by  Led Zeppelin, as well as a Train hit merged with classical composition.

AXS recently spoke with Rocktopia lead guitarist Tony Bruno (whose list of credits includes working Enrique Iglesias and Rihanna) about Rocktopia and more in this new interview.

AXS: How did Rocktopia all come about?

Tony Bruno: Randall Fleischer, Rob Evan and Bill Franzblau have been working on this project for close to eight years. There have been different incarnations of it along the way but they’ve finally found the perfect mixture of classical and classic rock without it being a mash-up.

AXS: How did you become involved in the production?

TB: A little over two years ago, I got a call asking if I’d like to come down and audition. I hadn't done an audition in almost thirty years and I remember when I arrived, there wasn't even a band! It was just going to be me and a midi piano version of the songs to rock out to. I was blown away when they called me back later that night and said, "You’re our guy!" It was very exciting and I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

AXS: What was it like performing with all those amazing musicians for the first time?

TB: The first thing that struck me was just how many people were pushing each other to do the greatest version of themselves. The talent was overwhelming. I remember when we were rehearsing for our show in Budapest [“Rocktopia: Live from Budapest”], we played along with a recording of the orchestra. It sounded big, but only as big as it could sound through your monitors. But I’ll never forget when we got to the Budapest Opera House and the very first down beat of “Baba O'Riley.” When the orchestra came in behind me, it was equivalent to that scene in “Back To The Future” where Michael J. Fox's character hits the guitar chord with that giant speaker behind him and goes flying [laughs]!. That's what it felt like. It was amazing.

AXS: What do you think makes a show like Rocktopia so special?

TB: First and foremost, it’s the choice of songs. There's a melding of sentiment between the songs and a commonality between them. Guys like Rachmaninoff and Beethoven were the rock stars of their generation, and what makes it so timeless is that by playing classic rock songs that work well with their music, it really exposes the ingenuity and the rock star in those guys. The songs don’t just work out of coincidence. Those guys were going after the same thing that guys like Jimmy Page were going for. Nothing we do when we play their music in a rock genre can detract or take away from what those songs are, and vice-versa when the orchestra is playing the classic rock songs. You really get to see how great these songs were when they were written.

AXS: What can you tell me about Rocktopia’s upcoming run on Broadway with Pat Monahan from Train?

TB: There are a few surprises we've added to the show that I can't divulge but Pat’s a big part of it. He’s an amazing singer and a big Led Zeppelin guy, so we’ve also integrated him heavily into that. The thing that's going to make this run so special is that we have an actual theater devoted to this show with the same orchestra and choir every night. It’s what the show's always meant to be.

AXS: You played a part in the 80s hard rock/metal scene. What was it like being in that environment?

TB: The best. That was a time in music when it really was all about fun. Guitar-wise, there were so many great players and bands. And even though there are some who like to slam the 80s, people are still trying to figure out the solos from guys like Eddie Van-Halen, George Lynch and Warren DeMartini.

AXS: What's the best bit of advice you can give to a young, up and coming artist?

TB: I get asked this quite a bit because of my time as a musical director. Whenever you go into an audition or to play for someone it’s not always about how well you know or program the song. That's important, but if you go in there with a "balls to the wall" attitude, you might make a mistake, but people will still think you're the guy that’s on fire. Do your job and learn the songs but when you get up there just go for it and let it go. People will see your true talent.

AXS: What excites you the most about this next phase of your career? What are you looking forward to the most about the future?

TB: I'm excited about where this is going to go. This is a phase of my life that's not going away and I think that the possibility of this show is limitless. They've invited me to collaborate in some of the orchestrations, which is an honor and a challenge. It's something I've always wanted to do and now I’m getting an opportunity to do it. So, I’m looking forward to taking this thing to the next level. Where it’s exposed to more people around the world.