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Steven Van Zandt on His Rascals Reunion Production: "The World Needs These Guys More than Ever"

Image courtesy of The Hartman Group (via ABC News Radio)
Image courtesy of The Hartman Group (via ABC News Radio)

With Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band taking a break between tour legs, guitarist Steven Van Zandt has turned his attention to The Rascals : Once upon a Dream , the concert/stage production hybrid that makes its Broadway debut tonight at the Richard Rogers Theatre .  Little Steven wrote the musical extravaganza, which he also is co-producing and co-directing.  The show, which had a six-performance test run last December in Port Chester, New York, brings together The Rascals' original lineup for the first time in more than 40 years.

Describing the multifaceted production, Van Zandt explains to ABC News Radio, "The band is gonna do a complete concert, the biggest concert they've ever done, 30 songs.  And in between the songs, the band tells their story [with] a huge screen behind them.  Then, we have actors portraying The Rascals when they were younger, also on the screen.  So, it's a mixed media kind of a show."

Once upon a Dream is undoubtedly a labor of love for Little Steven, who cites the '60s pop-rock act as one of his major musical inspirations.  That admiration is at the core of why Van Zandt worked so hard to get The Rascals to come together for the show.

"I just felt like the world needs these guys more than ever," he declares.  "It needs to hear the optimism in their music, the idealism in their music and that brotherhood and love that was so much a part of the music.  You don't hear that anymore and you don't see bands this good anymore."

Van Zandt says the goal of Once upon a Dream also is to "celebrate the band and remind people of how good they were and how good they are."  In addition, he hopes the show will inform music fans about The Rascals' "position in history," which he says "deserves a bit more attention than just a typical concert."

Meanwhile, Little Steven notes that you don't even have to be familiar with The Rascals to enjoy the show.  He says, "You can come in right off the street and you will leave, number one, feeling like you know the band intimately; number two, hearing some of the biggest, best music you've ever heard in your life; and, number three, feeling a sense of optimism and inspiration that's…a little hard to come by these days."

Besides the satisfaction of getting The Rascals to re-form and helping them reintroduce their classic songs to the masses, Van Zandt says his experience preparing Once upon a Dream for the stage has given him a new appreciation for the theater.

"I love going to the theater, but I never really understood the whole theatrical experience from the author's point of view," he explains.  "It was really a tremendous feeling to hear people laughing at lines you wrote or crying when it got emotional or responding to words that are being said that you wrote."

The Rascals: Once upon a Dream is booked for 15 performances through May 5.  Tickets for the show are available at Ticketmaster.com and at the Richard Rodgers Theatre box office.

Van Zandt is scheduled to return to the road with Springsteen and the E Street Band on April 29 when the rockers kick off a European tour leg in Oslo, Norway.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio