Neil Berg might be better known for his Broadway work and his “100 Years of Broadway’ tour.
However, the composer/lyricist has ties to the rock and roll world, so doing “50 Years of Rock and Roll” seemed a natural progression. Berg will bring the show to the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel at 8 p.m. Jan. 12.
“It’s been a lifetime of work,” Berg said. “I probably researched it for a year before I did it.”
Berg said the show had some test runs and then he launched it in 2017.
“It’s been incredibly well received,” Berg said. “It’s been heartening to see people respond so passionately to this creation.”
Berg said he had a dual path coming out of college, touring with a band called Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan. The band has opened for groups like Stray Cats and Steppenwolf.
“After my Broadway career took off, I was asked to be the musical director for the 100th anniversary of the Harley-Davidson tour (in 2013),” Berg said. “They played speedways. They had huge rock concerts. I was out with bands like Aerosmith, The Doors reunion, Ted Nugent, Journey, you name it. There were a lot of top acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
Berg said his background is storytelling.
“That’s the Broadway side of me,” Berg said. “I felt the best thing to do was do it chronologically. We start at the beginning of the Delta Blues of Robert Johnson. We go through the great musical influences, the gospel blues of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, jump jive of Louis Jordan, then we get into Jimmy Preston and Ike Turner’s ‘Rocket 88.’ People come to the show and they are learning something they didn’t know. The average rock and roll fan had no idea these influences got them there.”
Eventually, the journey takes Berg to Bill Haley and the Comets and explosion. Berg serves as narrator.
“I have the best performers in the world performing the music authentically,” he said. “These are Broadway stars who specialize in rock and roll. That helps us tell the story very well.”
The story goes from 1931 to 1981.
“In my opinion, those 50 years ended with the death of John Lennon in 1980 and culminated the next year with the beginning of MTV, which was more about video than the music,” Berg said. “It’s a good place to stop. Obviously, disco had taken over a lot of charts and radio air play in the late ‘70s. We do the real history. It went so well we’ve been invited back to every single venue.”
Berg has added a Part 2 for venues that have already hosted Part 1. It covers the same time period but with different musical selections.
“There is only so much you can do in a 2 1/2-hour show,” Berg said.
Part 1 is what people will most expect with a few exceptions to make sure the story is authentic, Berg said.
Berg doesn’t like medleys, but he will take the repetitive parts of songs.
“We do the beginnings and endings, but we may not repeat every verse and chorus,” he said.
The show includes Brook Wood, who graduated from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. He also has toured with Berg’s Broadway show.
“This show is just loads of fun,” Wood said. “People sing along, dance in the aisles and get to take a walk down memory lane. We perform all the hit numbers of these decades, so rarely will you hear a song you don’t know. I sing about eight tunes. I’d have to say my favorite is ‘Piece of My Heart’ by the incomparable Janis Joplin.”