Shaping the Setlist of Rock ‘N’ Roll 51

by Aidan Therrien ‘23

The process by which songs for Sherwood’s annual rock show, Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival (RRR), are selected is an enigma to most. From the cast’s perspective, a finished setlist is handed out before winter break, without fail. However, this overlooks the deliberation and careful consideration from the show’s directors, Jonathan Dunn and Alexander Silverbook. The directors have the ultimate say in what songs make it into the show, but this is not to say that the cast has no influence on the setlist. The directors consider a lot of factors when choosing songs, such as year of release, vocal capabilities of students, genre, what the cast wants, tradition, and of course, what the audience wants to hear.

Choosing songs often comes down to what vocalists are available. Sometimes a song will be added to the setlist because directors feel like a particular vocalist will excel at the song, whether that be a factor of vocal tone, range, or stage presence. But with this, no one understands what a singer is capable of singing quite like the singer themselves. Leads are invited to suggest and perform songs for the directors that they want to be considered for the show.

“More times than not, students audition with songs that we ultimately decide to include in the show. If a student nails a song in an audition, we definitely consider including that selection in the show,” said Dunn.

Any show will make an effort to play to the crowd. In RRR’s situation, the crowd is composed of community members as well as the parents and friends of the cast, which is a wide age range to appeal to. “We are careful to select songs that we think would show well and appeal to our audiences,” stressed Dunn.

As a result, the show has a cutoff for what songs are appropriate for the audience. A 60 year old member of the community may want to hear the music they grew up with in the 60s and 70s. By extension, the 40 year old parents of the cast may want to hear the music they grew up with in the 80s and 90s. RRR typically functions more holistically as a homage to the music from the 50s through the 90s. The cast of the show was delighted to learn that this year, the directors have expanded the allowable decades all the way up to the early 2000. The decision came from, “Looking at where we are in terms of time or eras” as well as “the need to be more inclusive,” said Dunn.

Oftentimes songs are chosen due to their history in RRR. Of the songs in the setlist this year, well over half of them have appeared in previous shows. Songs in the setlist this year like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and “La Bamba” by Richie Valens were in shows #44 and #46 respectively. This is no accident; the directors have a regularly updated document with every setlist back to RRR #2. Leads are encouraged to look at past setlists in order to determine their audition songs.