With Valentine’s Day just a few breaths away, it’s safe to say that the onslaught and inundation of everything related to love is well under way.
But if boxes of chocolates, romantic movies and overpriced flowers aren’t really your love language, Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo is offering a little more for you this year in the form of “Deep Love,” a rock opera set to show on Valentine’s Day.
Described as “a modern breed of a classic opera” and “a theatrical event for lovers of music and storytelling,” “Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera” has snowballed from its humble beginnings a decade ago in the frigid cold of Rexburg, Idaho, to an ever-growing phenomenon hailed by the New York Times as “a polished show with pop ambitions.”
According to Jon Lewis, a musician who has been with the project from the early days, “Deep Love” was written by Ryan Hayes and Garret Sherwood starting in 2009 and wrapping up in 2010.
“There was no real sense of expectation for the show — they were bored in Idaho and it was wintertime, so they started writing a rock opera,” Lewis said. “They had some breakups and they were venting through it, using (the opera) as catharsis for their breakups, I guess. There wasn’t really any idea of any destiny for the show. It was just meant to be something fun to do. Then after the first time we put it on, it was pretty clear right away that we had something. After the first couple shows we kind of wanted to challenge ourselves to figure out what more we could do with the show. The people that were coming told us they wanted to keep coming and we want to keep making it as long as people want to keep coming, so it’s sort of grown that way.”
Lewis got involved after first hearing the music and recognizing something special in it.
If the concept of a rock opera is new to you, Lewis explained it as “different from most musicals in that it’s not as narrative driven as most musicals are. It’s more of a unique delivery system for rock ‘n’ roll.”
The “Deep Love” website takes that definition a step further: “ ‘Deep Love’ is a show without dialogue — a modern take on the opera — where the characters tell the story entirely through the veil of a rock ‘n’ roll concert. A dynamic soundscape is created through blends of modern rock, blues and folk music, specifically designed for each scenario and character. Audience members are encouraged to boisterously clap, shout and root for their favorite character throughout the entire show.”
Originally working on producing the show, Lewis soon after started taking on the lead role of Old Bones and directing the haunting musical tale.
There aren’t many theatrical, or musical for that matter, productions that can settle in well to both the spook-ridden season of Halloween and the overly cozy holiday of love with Valentine’s Day, but “Deep Love” is one that surprisingly fits the bill.
It’s described as “a glimpse at life through the eyes of a young widow from a bygone era as she struggles to meet the demands of her deceased husband’s undying love. Sweethearts turn into adversaries in pursuit of what they cannot live without.”
“Deep Love” is not the only rock opera that has made its way to the stage of Velour in recent years, but it is the original, and Friday’s showcase actually marks a repeat performance for the opera and a unique musical opportunity for those who come.
“It’s a really great way to get rock ‘n’ roll, the club experience,” Lewis said. “The music experience at a club is kind of its own thing — it’s a different thing, and this is a way that you can sort of add a narrative ... it takes you on a journey that is not necessarily unlike a rock ‘n’ roll show, plus something its own.”
“Deep Love” was last performed in October for repeat showings at the Rose Wagner Theater in Salt Lake City, and is tapping into the musical skills of quite a variety of talented artists with their own careers and focuses, including local favorite Joshy Soul as music director. Tackling the core cast of four are Lewis, who has appeared on “American Idol” solo and “The Voice” as a part of folk duo Midas Whale, Amy Whitcomb of “The Voice” and “The Sing-Off,” actress Melanie Stone and the show’s original creator, Garrett Sherwood, not to mention a variety of other top-notch talents who have worked with the show in the past.
“It’s been different things for all of us in different seasons, but it’s really exciting to watch something that I think we’ve all worked very hard on mean a lot to not only us, but to other people, and I think that’s what kind of keeps us going,” Lewis said of how the project has grown and evolved over the span of a decade. “It’s been like falling in love with something over the course of 10 years.”
The rock opera originally showed to a couple dozen people in Lewis’ living room, quickly snowballed from there, including a major coup in 2015 when it was selected as a featured production in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, after which it was invited to be workshopped by the Johnny Mercer Writer’s Colony at the Goodspeed Theatre.
“ ‘Deep Love’ has been a labor of love from the beginning and with nine years of lessons learned, this season’s production promises to be the best yet,” Sherwood said in a press release prior to the October production.
Typically, according to Lewis, “Deep Love” will show at least once a year in a more classic theatrical venue.
“The kind of theater experience one might have going to an opera — we think it’s kind of fun to desecrate that space with our rock ‘n’ roll,” he joked.
Though it made an appearance for a seated show at Velour for Valentine’s Day 2016, this year’s performance was scheduled on the heels of the excitement that came from October’s shows, and will feature both seated and standing concerts.
“Every year, I feel like we forget how much we like doing the show until we put it on again,” Lewis said. “I hope people have a good time. I hope they have a great time. If they love love, I hope they feel fulfilled on Valentine’s Day and if they love to hate on love, I hope they also feel fulfilled. I think both audiences can find what they’re looking for.”
According to Lewis, each character explores a different type of love as the show evolves, with a lot more love coming from those who present it.
“I think that it’s just important to note the show is the labor of love of everyone involved,” he said. “Basically, that it’s something that we all love to do.”