‘Rock & Roll Man' Review: The Life and Times of a Hype Man

The bio-show about Alan Freed, a radio D.J., dutifully plays the hits.

‘Rock & Roll Man' Review: The Life and Times of a Hype Man

Freed, in the early 1950s discovers new sounds while visiting a record shop run by Leo Mintz. Joe Pantoliano is the owner of the store. He immediately falls for the music that brought together white and black teenagers. His success as a D.J. is growing. He then moves to New York where he begins working with Morris Levy, the owner of a shady nightclub and record label.

The book by Gary Kupper and Larry Marshak, with Rose Caiola as the author, assembles a series of hits from artists such as LaVern Baker and Screamin Jay Hawkins. (both played Matthew S. Morgan). Randal Myler’s production does not capture the chaotic and suggestive energy of early rock. Freed may not have imagined the case, but it does reflect a time in which rock was seen to be an attack on racial and sexual order. The show makes it difficult to understand why Freed, and the artists that he defended, were viewed as a threat.

Freed's life was full of rock 'n roll. The show is largely oblivious to the fact that Freed, in addition of hobnobbing and sexing with Levy (they both went down for a payola), also overindulged on booze. It is particularly haphazard in the way it deals with his family.

Maroulis, a former "American Idol" contestant and a musical-theater performer who can rock convincingly, is not allowed to sing any of Freed's hits. Instead he is forced to sing Kupper's originals that are merely obtuse. The only time he lets loose is on the title song, which comes at the end of the show. But it's already too late.