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Choices: A Rock Opera Rolls out in Armonk

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John Krupa’s semi-autobiographical dive into the ’80s rock scene is set to premiere at Armonk’s Whippoorwill Theater on April 1.

For longtime Armonk resident John Krupa, Choices: A Rock Opera is more just another musical – it’s a personal story that’s been decades in the making. The aptly-named rock opera, which dives into the life-changing choices faced by those in the music industry in the height of the ’80s rock scene, is set to make its debut in Krupa’s hometown of Armonk – in the Whippoorwill Theater – on April 1.

The rock opera centers on the young and driven lead-singer of a spandex-wearing, big-haired ’80s rock band called “Choices.” Despite his success in the music industry, his focus on growing the band has left him emotionally stunted and cocooned. This changes when the singer meets a beautiful woman, one who introduces him to the vast and vibrant world outside of the band. While this happens, he is under constant pressure by his wild bandmates and a mysterious character – one who promises the singer a one-way ticket to super-stardom – to continue his rock and roll lifestyle. This leaves the singer at a crossroads. Should he abandon the only life he’s ever known for a chance at true happiness with this woman, or should he double-down on his life of debauchery with the band and realize his dream of becoming a famous rockstar?

 

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Krupa’s inspiration for the rock opera lies in his own experiences within the music industry. Armonk residents will likely know him for his performances with the bands “Group Therapy” and “The Lucky Bastards,” but his love of music started quite early in life. In his senior year at Lehigh University, he had written his first rock opera and went on to become the first person to attain a degree in Music Composition & Theory from the university. Post-graduation, Krupa fully entered the music industry as a session and touring musician, playing bass with famous acts such as Meatloaf and Paula Cole. At age 24, he made the decision to settle down and have a family – a choice that mirrors the actions taken by the central character of Choices.

“It’s somewhat autobiographical,” says Krupa on the premise of Choices, which was formulated after a friend suggested that he write a book about his life on tour. “What do I know about writing a book? You know? I mean, I’m not an author. But I do know how to write music…maybe I could write a musical about it…and so all these experiences that I’ve had in and outside of music industry – but mostly in – prepared me to write this story about what goes on backstage with characters in the music industry.”

 

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To capture the true essence of what the music industry was like in the ’80s, Krupa set out to compose a soundtrack that represented all aspects of ’80s music. The musical starts with heavy-metal guitar riffs and driving beats – reminiscent of iconic Hair bands such as Poison, Ratt, Def Leppard, or Mötley Crüe. As the plot moves forward the music shifts with it, incorporating more synth-driven tracks that take hints from New Wave bands (Duran Duran, New Order, etc.), and ballads that trade distortion for a focus on powerful vocals.

“The music tells its own story,” says Krupa. “What I like to say is if we took all the lyrics out of it, and we took even all the singing out of it, I truly do believe that just by listening to just the music from beginning to end, you will see the linearity of the story.”

“I’m a big fan of the band Rush, for example, because their songs all start in one place and end somewhere else and take you on this journey,” Krupa explains, “So this particular rock opera in my opinion, it’s a journey…the music changes dramatically. He starts singing down an octave and it’s a whole different vibe, and it’s not just that the plotline changes – the music changes WITH the plotline.”

 

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To compose a soundtrack with this fluid movement, Krupa knew he would need an all-star group of musicians with both skill and versatility. The result was a crack-team of talented artists including Artie Dillon (from Eighth Avenue Live), Music Director Mike Rosenman (from Group Therapy), Tommy Vinton (from Too Much Joy and The Lucky Bastards), Grammy-winning Bill Wittman (from Too Much Joy and Cyndi Lauper band), and Hank DeCora. To keep the sound as authentic as possible, Krupa and the band also tried to use or emulate instrument models popular with bands from the ’80s – particularly, a Roland Juno-6 synth (popularized by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran), and Kramer guitars (made famous by Eddie Van Halen and Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe). He considers the rock opera to be a history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with the 1980s music scene – comparing the costumes and retro instruments to historians who organize Revolutionary War reenactments with uniforms and historically accurate props.

To help faithfully present this ambitious soundtrack, Krupa has teamed up with an impressive team of actors – nearly all of whom have extensive musical backgrounds. The lead role of The Singer will be played by MiG Ayesa, a world-renowned vocalist who has several Broadway credits and was a finalist on the show Rock Star: INXS. The role of The Girlfriend will be played by Layla DaVias, a talented singer who competed in “American Idol” and placed in the semi-finals of “Star Search.” Supporting actors include Christina Labrador (from Karma’s Tea), Ronnie DiMaria (from The Lucky Bastards), Joe Leo (from Outraged Studios), Hermione Heckrich, Annemarie Josephson, and Nick Celio (from Outraged Studios) who is making his onstage debut.

 

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Armonk’s Whippoorwill Theater serves as the perfect launchpad for Choices: A Rock Opera. Krupa hails Choices as being a true Westchester play – by Westchester, for Westchester. To this end, he has partnered with ArtsWestchester, and hopes to bring Choices to other venues within Westchester for all to see.

“This is an authentically Armonk play…It was conceived of in Armonk, born in Armonk, and came of age in Armonk…it started in Armonk, and it developed here, and it’s come a long way,” he observes.

“I didn’t go to any Broadway producers at first. The first people I went to was ArtsWestchester, and they came back and said ‘We want to be your strategic partner and be with you every step of the way,’” Krupa explains of his aforementioned partnership with ArtsWestchester. “This is truly a Westchester production if ever there was one, you know. The majority of the people involved are from Westchester. We want to try to be that first major one…that’s our goal, and it’s happening for us. We’re very blessed.”

“This is not the end of our Westchester performances. Our next place will be another Westchester venue. And then from there, we were hoping to go and we’re intending to go off Broadway, and then follow the progression on Broadway so that that’s entirely our intention. And not just our intention…we’re so sure of our path. I can’t even I can’t even express it with more confidence,” he says.


Related: Roll out the Red Carpet for the Rock & Roll Wedding of Your Dreams at The Capitol Theatre

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