Zachary Blasto is a young man who, in many ways, typifies the malaise of his generation: by day a 30-year old busboy, at night he pursues dreams of rock and roll glory with his band. On the other hand, few would-be rock stars have a vaudevillian alter-ego who tells their story in vaudeville fashion, complete with dance numbers. “Rainbow Around the Sun,” written by Kevin Ely and directed by Ely and Beau J. Leland, is Blasto’s story.
Our protagonist (Matthew Alvin Brown, who also wrote and performed the songs) copes with the frustrations at his job, his self-destructive drinking, and the failure of his relationship to the lovely Debbie (Jamie Buxton) by constructing elaborate musical fantasies. The story is told in fairly non-linear fashion, though the familiar cycle of struggle, despair, and renewal is evident. However, it isn’t until Zachary finally learns to cope with a tragedy that’s been haunting him for some time that he’s able to emerge as a stronger person.
“Rainbow Around the Sun” works best when it sticks to its rock opera underpinnings. Zachary is a talented guy, and seems to mean well, but more often than not comes across as petulant during the non-musical scenes (and if the guys in your aspiring band are such a******s, why continue working with them at all?). And while you’re at it, don’t you have to achieve a measure of fame beyond “bar band” before you can start treating your fans like s**t? It isn’t hard to understand why Debbie left him, though to his credit, he (finally) comes to this realization as well.
Musically, “Rainbow Around the Sun” hits on almost all cylinders. Brown effortlessly switches from prog to country to rock, and practically every song is memorable to some extent. Whatever “Rainbow’s” shortcomings in characterization, it more than makes up for it with its heartfelt and (usually) affecting lyrics (Ely doesn’t always yank things back from the precipice of over-sentimentality). There’s also honest-to-god choreography, and an animated segment that wouldn’t be out place in bigger budget productions.
“Rainbow Around the Sun” evokes the Beatles, the Flaming Lips (Brown and company are from Oklahoma, after all), “Tommy,” and even – at one point – Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.” It’s a heartfelt effort, and one that should earn Ely, Leland, and company a wider following.