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'Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra' performs in Playhouse parking lot

'Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra' performs in Playhouse parking lot

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Billy McGuigan of the Pop Rock Orchestra.

In June of this summer season Billy McGuigan brought his signature show about the music of Buddy Holly, “Rave On,” to the parking lot of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 69th and Cass Streets.

It was a great success and the venue was safe. For the time of the COVID-19 threat to large gatherings of people this format seems to work. Social distancing works outside.

The Omaha Playhouse and its staff did an excellent job of spacing the cars in the parking lot so there was a safe distance between cars. They had learned from “Rave On” back in June.

This show was originally scheduled for the Hawks mainstage theater inside, but because of the virus it was moved to the Playhouse parking lot. Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra features hits from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. He and his orchestra will play hits of Billy Joel, the Beach Boys and the British Invasion of the 60s when the Beatles turned the rock world upside down.

Billy McGuigan’s eight-piece orchestra is on a stage high above the asphalt parking lot on the east end of the parking lot. The show opened last Wednesday night under beautiful weather conditions. The skies were cloudy and a steady breeze was blowing the two flags above the stage. It was a perfect evening for a rock n roll show.

There are special rules for this event. You can enter the parking lot up to an hour before the start of the show. That gives time for the Playhouse staff to distance cars in a checkerboard pattern. Audience members can sit in their automobiles or bring lawn chairs on the drivers side of their vehicles. The restrooms in the lobby of the playhouse are open. No refreshments are sold. I saw many audience members bringing pizza and refreshments. No alcohol is permitted.

It is also a cashless performance, reservations need to be made ahead of time. Prices start at $38 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office at 6915 Cass St., Omaha, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at

The star of the 90-minute show is McGuigan, who plays the guitar, keyboards and sings vocals. McGuigan’s love of music comes from his father, who introduced him to love music at an early age. McGuigan got started at the Omaha Community Playhouse many years ago when he portrayed Buddy Holly in their production of “The Buddy Holly Story.” McGuigan started the production company “Rave on Productions.”

There are three McGuigan brothers involved in Rave On Productions. Billy, Matthew and Ryan. Rave On productions has presented shows at theaters all over the world. Rave On Productions has also produced “Rave on!,” “The Buddy Holly Experience,” “Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience” and “She Rocks with Tara Vaughn: Women of Rock,” which Billy produced.

In the show I attended, Matthew McGuigan plays bass, sings vocals and is the musical director. Ryan McGuigan does percussion and sings vocals. The rest of the Pop Rock Orchestra are very talented musicians and singers. Max Meyer is lead guitar and vocals. The lone female singer is Natalie Thomas.

There are a couple of special guests to perform with the orchestra — Billy’s 12-year-old son Claran McGuigan played a mean guitar and was a guitar tech for the show. Carly Frolia sang vocals and was social media person on the show. Darren Pettit played saxophone and keyboards, Larell Ware played drums and Stan Harper played alto sax, keyboards and vocals.

As the sun set on the Omaha Community Playhouse the Pop Rock Orchestra played many familiar rock tunes: “Run Around Sue,” “Summer in the City,” ”Tequila,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Walking on Sunshine” and ”Mony Mony,“ a Billy Idol hit from the 80s.

It was a fast paced tour-de-force for Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra. “Locomotion,” a Little Eva song from 1962 was fantastic. The Beatles “A Hard Days Night” brought back memories.

The show runs Thursdays through Sundays in the Storz Parking Lot at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Start time is 7:30 p.m. each night. The show is 90 minutes of really good rock ’n roll. Shows are Thursdays through Sundays through Aug. 23. Don’t miss the opportunity for live music at the Omaha Playhouse parking lot.

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