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Rock of Ages excites audience with '80s hits and captivating dance numbers

Senior Leah Lakomski works to create a set piece for ‘Rock of Ages’ Wednesday, March 6. (Photo by Ian Dickerman)

Multicolored LEDs illuminated the stage as a live rock band strummed the first few chords of a rock medley. Built into the stage was a catwalk and spotlights that shone onto the audience. The narrator’s immaculate costume and sky-high wig indicated that Rock of Ages was one of the biggest productions Theatre Ink has ever done.

Rock of Ages played in the auditorium at 7:30 p.m. March 14, 15, and 16, and 2:00 p.m. March 17. Kevin Kline directed the show, Chris Roppola musically directed, and Elena Maimonis choreographed.

What made Rock Of Ages unique from other Theatre Ink productions was that the cast was self-aware that they were in a musical. For example, halfway through an introduction from Theatre Ink director Adam Brown, Lonny Barnett, played by senior Andy Bean, interrupted Brown to greet the audience and went on to “direct” the show.

The band, which was on stage the entire show, began playing a mashup of the rock songs “Cum On Feel the Noize” by Quiet Riot, “Just Like Paradise” by David Lee Roth, and “Nothing But a Good Time” by Poison.

“It is a jukebox musical, which means that it has songs that were already made before the show,” said sophomore Emma Bradshaw, an ensemble member. “A lot of them are fun songs that everyone knows from the ’80s.” Lonny sang along while introducing the audience to the setting and characters of the show.

Most of the show took place in the Bourbon Room, a Hollywood bar that is owned by Dennis Dupree, who was played by junior Jonah Michel. The time was set as the “mid to late 80’s—give or take” in the Playbill.

A love story is introduced between main characters Drew Boley, played by junior Josh Lev, and Sherrie Christian, played by senior Téa Baum. Sherrie is a small town girl who moves to Los Angeles to pursue her acting ambitions despite her overprotective parents. She meets Drew, an aspiring rock star working as a busboy at the bar.

Drew confesses his love for Sherrie and asks her out on a date with a breathtaking rendition of “More Than Words” by Extreme and “Heaven” by Warrant. The drums and the lights kicked off in the middle of the song, just in time for Drew to belt out a high note. The entire performance was pitch perfect.

However, another love interest, rocker Stacee Jaxx, played by junior Alex Wymer, performs at the club. Sherrie is immediately smitten and forgets about Drew. “One of the main twists that happens in the play is when Sherrie meets Stacee Jaxx, who’s like this heavy rocker. And he’s like, a crazy sex god,” said Baum. “She goes on that detour for a while.”

Things took a turn when Stacee betrays Sherrie by complaining to the bar owner about her. Left by Stacee and without a career, Sherrie is all alone on the streets. Thunder and lightning effects dramatized this moment as purple lighting flooded the stage. Sherrie launches into a jazzy melody, which is a blend between “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash and “Shadows Of The Night” by Pat Benatar. The scene was near Broadway level spectacular.

“In a sense, it’s a classic ‘boy meets girl’ romance musical,” said Bean. “But beyond that, there’s friendship and there’s community in the sense that the main location of the musical means a lot to a lot of people.”

Besides a romance, the show was also about how the citizens come together to preserve the Bourbon Room and other buildings that made LA the center of rock and roll. The second plotline of the show details two German developers trying to strike up a business deal to rebuild the Sunset Strip.

Senior Rachel Sidmore and junior Noah Leikind, who played the developers, speak with exaggerated German accents, which added to the comedy relief of their characters. The mayor agrees to sign the contract, and protester Anita Bath, played by senior Madeline Ranalli, decides to retaliate by rioting on the streets.

Act two opened strong with “The Final Countdown” by Europe which featured Hilda, Franz, Anita, Lonny, Dennis, and the ensemble.

“Hate Myself For Loving You/Heat of the Moment” featured Baum pouring out her heart and soul into the song and dance. She launches herself around the stage at Stacee in anger for ruining her relationship and making her lose her job. Sherrie calling out Stacee was a significant turning point of the show, and she realizes Drew is the one she truly loves.

Drew and Sherrie “want to make it big in the industry so bad that they end up compromising their relationships and finding true love,” said Baum. “By the end, they realize that that’s what ends up fulfilling them and that sometimes dreams change.”

A fan favorite was “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. The song was both comedic and heartwarming as Lonny and Dennis confess their true feelings for each other through dance.

All the cast came on stage for the finale song, “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. “I think there’s no better way to go out than that,” said Baum. “Like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” total Glee moment, you know, the finale. So it’s really fun to just jam out with my friends on stage.”

Overall, with Broadway level effects and stunning choreography, Rock of Ages was the culmination of the hard work of the cast and crew.

“The show manages to make fun of the ’80s while still appreciating it,” said Jensen. “It’s really amazing. It’s a really good story with a lot of pop culture references that are still relevant today.”

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