“Rock of Ages” Brings the Haircade of the 80’s to a Rockin’ Good Time on the Cygnet Stage
TR Robertson — The 80’s are rocking again with Cygnet’s Season 17 opening show, “Rock of Ages”, the jukebox musical filled with songs from the 1980’s highlighting many of the metal bands that took the 80’s by storm. Cygnet’s production is a high energy, foot stomping, series of mini-concerts mixed in with great dance routines, and oh yes, there is a story surrounding all of the musical talent on stage.
“Rock of Ages” is a simple boy meets girl – boy and girl want to “make it big” – boy loses girl – boy makes it big – girl struggles – boy struggles – boy and girl find one another again. Don’t forget there is also a sub-plot of a struggling Los Angeles Sunset Strip metal club threatened by a German real estate developer take over and a glam rocker that upsets the relationship train. Mix all of this together, throw in great music and a “rockin” band, tremendous choreography, laughs galore and the addition of the theatrical “fourth wall”, where actors speak to the audience as well as interacting with them, and you have enough for an unforgettable evening of fun.
Photos by Ken Jacques and Sean Fanning
The musical will bring back memories of the amazing songs and groups that came out of the 80’s. By the end of the 2 hr. 15 min. the audience will have heard songs from memorable groups and performers like Styx, Bon Jovi, Poison, Twisted Sister, Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger, Europe, Whitesnake and more.
“Rock of Ages” is from a book by Chris D’Arienzo with orchestration and arrangements by Ethan Popp. It premiered in Los Angeles at King King in 2005, opened off-Broadway at New World Stages in 2008 and opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 2009. The musical would run for 2,328 performances, where it would tie “Man of La Mancha” for 29th spot as one of the longest running shows on to appear on Broadway.
The Cygnet production is directed by Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray. He, along with his creative team, have brought together a varied cast, many are Cygnet veterans and many are new to the Cygnet stage. Making his Cygnet debut in the lead role of Drew, the young man who aspires to make it big in the world of metal bands, is Rory Gilbert. Gilbert’s tenor voice handles a number of songs in the musical and stands out on songs like “Heaven” and in a number of duets with co-star Megan Carmitchel, who plays Sherrie. Carmitchel has performed in a number of regional theatres, including plays at Cygnet. Along with a tremendous voice, she is also involved in a number of dance numbers throughout the musical.
The owner of the metal club, The Bourbon Room, is played by the big bear of a man with a gentle heart, Berto Fernandez, who plays Dennis. Dennis “cuts a mean dance routine” as well as rocking the stage with a booming voice. Berto is making his Cygnet debut. Playing his club assistant, Lonny, is Victor E. Chan. Chan is also new to the Cygnet stage. Not only does he play the “tell it like it is” Lonny, but he also is the Narrator for the musical, letting the audience know not only what is going on, what’s going to happen and making sure we understand this is a play and the actors and actresses are characters in the play. Berto and Victor play off of one another and provide a number of humorous moments on stage.
Craig Noel Award winner Bryan Banville is also a Cygnet Resident Artist and has a most memorable role as he plays the metal icon Stacee Jaxx, the womanizing, over-the-top metal head who throws a wrench in the relationship Sherrie and Drew are developing. Banville is perfect in this roll and also provides much of the humor that runs through the musical. Speaking of humor, playing the German real estate developer Hertz is John Rosen, a first timer at Cygnet and also making his Cygnet debut and playing Hertz son, Franz, is Zackary Scot Wolfe. Rosen is a veteran actor having performed in numerous regional theatrical productions and Wolfe is adding more and more regional theatre to his resume. The two work well together as the domineering father and the “puppy faced” son, but when the son breaks away, the audience will cheer at the changes Franz brings to the stage.
Anise Ritchie plays Sunset Strip Venue Gentleman’s Strip Club owner, Justic, and her booming voice stands out in a number of songs. Ritchie is a Cygnet veteran and has toured Europe singing opera and gospel. Emma Nossal, also making her Cygnet debut, plays the lady with a cause, Regina. The remainder of the outstanding cast is made up of Tamara Rodriguez, Bailey Day Sonner, Drew Bradford, E.Y. Washington and Siri Hafso. All of these performers handle the energetic, fast paced numbers with ease as they both sing and dance their way through the over 30 numbers in the musical.
Murray’s Creative Team consists of Music Director Patrick Marion, Choreographer Katie Banville, Stage Manager Craig Campbell, Properties Designer Bonnie Durben, Set Designer Sean Fanning, Sound Designer TJ Fucella, Costume Designer Jennifer Brawn Gittings, Projection Designer Blake McCarty, and Wig & Make-up Designer Peter Herman. The 80’s clothing and wigs brought back many memories of fashion statements that were oh so wrong and styles that are now hard to imagine people actually wore. Congrats to the team for pulling off the 80’s look. A litany of video projections, which went along with the songs being sung, appeared on the wall above the club during the musical. The long haired club band was made up of Director Patrick Marion on keyboards, Tom Versen on drums, Jim Mooney on drums, PJ Bovee on rhythm guitar, and Martin Martiarena on bass.
The musical pushes a slightly PG-13 rating, after all it was a sex, drugs rock n’ roll time, so be advised if you are thinking about bringing the young ones. But, that being said, this is a fun, funny, musically entertaining musical that will give you a taste of what the music scene was like in the late 80’s as things began to change to the boy band scene. Just hearing these songs again and looking at the projections on the back wall will bring back memories of a time before cell phones and computers dominated our life.
“Rock of Ages” will be on the Cygnet Theatre Stage in Old Towne until August 25th. Tickets can be purchased at www.cygnettheatre.com or call 619-337-1525. Next up on the Cygnet Stage will be “The Virgin Trial” beginning on September 11th.