Stepping Out

Dee Snider rocks Tilles Center in 'Rocktopia' national tour

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“Rocktopia” doesn’t fit in any one box. A classic rock musical performed by an orchestra and a rock band in a mash up with rock, opera and Broadway singers all together? The phenomenon is in a class all its own and that is just how Dee Snider likes it.

“ ‘Rocktopia’ is a whole unique experience and that’s what drew me to it when they invited me to sing with them on Broadway the first time,” he says of the show that makes its way to Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. “It’s a different experience. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I have seen this before.’ You definitely have not!”

Whether you fancy Journey and Aerosmith or Beethoven and Puccini, “Rocktopia” promises something for everyone. Rock music is quintessentially universal, and Snider will not only provide the hits that brought his band, Twisted Sister, fame in the ‘ 80s, but he’ll also be tapping into his operatic side.

“It should be more than interesting. Anybody who doubted I could sing Zeppelin and saw ‘Rocktopia,’ they now know that it’s not out of my wheelhouse, and now being a classically trained countertenor, I think I’ll deliver my operatic moments quite well.”

Snider’s visit to Long Island also allows him the opportunity to revisit his roots. The Baldwin native sang in the choir at Tilles Center when he attended New York Institute of Technology because his own school did not have a choir.

“I worked at the radio station at C.W. Post (now LIU Post), WCWP, and Tilles Center had just opened at that point. It was a brand new thing back in the ‘70s,” he recalls. “I saw one of my favorite bands, Slade, perform there. They were a huge inspiration for me. There’s a lot of memories connected to Long Island.”

It seems that just about everyone has a Dee Snider story, whether they met him on the street getting a coffee, saw him perform, or ran into him buying light bulbs. “It’s like no degrees of separation,” he laughs.

In fact, a few weeks prior to “Rocktopia,” Snider was in Long Beach for his annual charity event, Dee Snider’s Ride. The 2018 ride, which marked its 16th anniversary, benefits Melissa’s Wish.

“When I started the Ride I told people that one day they’d be rolling me out there drooling on myself. I’m not there yet by any means, but true to my word, 16 years later, we’re still doing great work,” Snider says.

“Melissa’s Wish was inspired by a young woman who used to ride with us years ago, but who got cancer and died. Her dying wish was that her father would create a charity that would help the caretakers of sick people. We started the charity and we’re using the finances to help local families who tragically lost loved ones and are in financial, desperate straits.”

Snider will be sharing the stage with “Rocktopia” lead guitarist Tony Bruno, a fellow Long Islander who got his start opening for Twister Sister in the band Swift Kick. “Back in the day, Twisted Sister was this huge local phenomenon playing these clubs to 100, 200 people every night,” Snider remembers of his early days at clubs like Speaks, Mad Hatter and OBI.

“We found this little band called Swift Kick with talented young musicians, and we invited them to be our regular opener. There was this amazing guitar player in the band, Tony Bruno. Since then his career has just been incredible!”

Bruno went on to produce, write and direct music for Rihanna, Julio Iglesias, and Zayn Malik. “Forty years later, it will be two old friends up there, and dare I say, crushing it!”

Though Snider wouldn’t mind delving further into acting (he was last seen as Sheriff Ron getting eaten by a shark in the sixth “Sharknado” flick), he’s excited about “For the Love of Metal,” his latest album and his first to enter the Billboard charts in 30 years.

“Just the fact that it’s being talked about is blowing my mind. Some of it is timing. Look at how Tony Bennett has reconnected with a younger audience. It‘s kind of what’s happening to me right now. Record store owners have told me they have young kids walking in for the Dee Snider record, and when they say, ‘Oh, are you a Twisted Sister fan?’ the kids are going, ‘Who’s that?’ It pleases me to no end that they’re just discovering my music and liking it!”

Snider also has an animated Netflix series on the pipeline, but for now he is excited about bringing “Rocktopia” to a wider audience as it goes on tour. “We all grew up on rock, so there’s an appreciation of it,” he says of why “Rocktopia” has a built-in fan base.

“If there was a dinner party and they invited the most important people in the world of music, Bach, Beethoven, Hendrix and Queen would be there. They all created something important. This show ties them together and makes you appreciate that they each have their place at that table.”

Tickets are $129, $99, $79, $59, $49, $39; available at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com or www.tillescenter.org.