Having previously had the privilege to speak with Wes Carr who plays the lead role of Andy in Rolling Thunder Vietnam, I had an idea of the experience I was in for. As we made our way down to our seats for the show’s debut performance at Jupiter’s Casino, it was evident the target audience was mid to elderly couples, maybe baby boomers. As they sat waiting for the opening scene it appeared to me the audience were anticipating this rock drama to deliver a rollercoaster of emotions which might stir up memories of that tumultuous time. There are many veterans in the audience, naturally to be expected as a fitting way to pay tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
And does it deliver! The rousing, belted out opening number, Magic Carpet Ride gave notice to the audience to “close your eyes, look inside and let the sounds take you away.” The show delivered on all fronts – all aspects of war were addressed, revealed from the perspective of the four lead and two support characters. Each character spoke directly to the audience about their experience of war, conscription and coming home, making it feel so very personal. The stories were told mixed together with archival war footage and the songs of the time that provided a sonic framework for the telling of a story of romance, war and the longing for peace.
Rolling Thunder Vietnam is a rock drama with the beautifully concise script written by Bryce Hallett and directed by David Berthold. It is the perfect genre to tell this story “the first rock and roll war”! The powerful story and the raw energetic performances from all cast members were superb. The casting was perfect, harmonies terrific, the band phenomenally tight under the musical direction of Chong Lim and an array of talented well known Australian musicians.
Rolling Thunder Vietnam deserved the audience’s adulation and was worthy of the standing ovation and unexpected encore of Joe Cocker’s The Letter – acknowledging the veterans present. It is a pity that a wider, younger audience of the generation that followed were in low numbers in the crowd. This is an important piece of creative work paying tribute to what life was like for soldiers and loved ones and honouring the ground breaking songs of that era. The show is worthy of everyone’s attention, it is on again tonight at Jupiter’s Casino, do yourself a favour this is “the real thing” and go see this amazing show.