Spring musical will rock the stage

Rena Casey, Staff Writer

Big hair, big vocals and big dreams define the cast of “Rock of Ages,” and for two weekends in April, the stars of Stage Left will rock the stage with its spring musical.

“Rock of Ages” premiered on Broadway in 2009. Stars like “American Idol’s” Constantine Maroulis, Amy Spangler and Mary J. Blige donned the stage as main characters Drew, Sherrie and Justice Charlier, respectively. During its span of eight years on Broadway, theater teacher Connie Rose got the opportunity to experience the 80s wonder first hand.

“I did see ‘Rock of Ages’ and loved it. The music is a bit risqué, so when I heard that there was a high school version, I jumped on it,” Rose said.

Set in the 1980s, the story revolves around the demure Sherrie Christian (senior Elizabeth Wheless) moving to Los Angeles and meeting Drew Boley (junior Kyle Logan), a wanna-be rocker.

“Drew is very passionate about one thing and he’ll really do whatever it takes to ensure he gets it. At first, he believes that one thing is rock and roll, but later realizes that one thing is Sherrie,” Logan said. “He’s a good guy at heart and I think that really comes to light in the second act.”

Add in an intense German mother and her son trying to take over the Sunset Strip, two club owners who fear for their business and a rocker with an ego bigger than his hair, and Rock of Ages is born.

Rock of Ages is a “jukebox musical” meaning all of its music is derived from other artists. Music by Whitesnake, REO Speedwagon, Journey, Pat Benatar and many more make up the score for the show. With the inclusion of 80s music, the cast has to perform a precise rendition to exceed people’s expectations.

This not only poses a challenge for the singers and actors of “Rock of Ages,” but also its live pit. The ensemble made up of sophomore Avery Herom, junior William Pendleton, senior Eric Williams, music teacher Becki Rae and her husband, Bill, have to fill the large shoes of iconic 80s rockers.

“The difference between this show and the others I have done is the rock music that is involved,” Williams said. “The music has to be exact and I’m going to be on stage, so I don’t want to mess up.”

Songs from the decade exemplify the hard rock feel of the musical and increase audience involvement. For Rose, the music is personal, as she grew up listening to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Harden My Heart” and various others.

“Everyone loves 80s music,” Rose said. “Feet are tapping, people sing along, and it’s popular, so the cast has to be spot on.”

Along with the music, dance choreography intertwines and amplifies the themes of the show. Rose recruited local dance teacher Simone Endres to help with dance numbers for the musical. Additionally, junior Alexis McCallum and sophomore Rebbekkah Eller served as dance captains and helped the cast with their dance moves. Both girls have a background in dance and for McCallum her balletic background was a contrast from the contemporary dances needed.

“The hardest part about helping to choreograph ‘Rock of Ages’ was probably the transition from studio dance, which I’m used to and have done for 10 years, to musical theater dance,” McCallum said. “It’s been a lot of fun working with everyone and seeing the show come together, I’m really proud of it.”

With opening night a few weeks away, the cast is making final touches to the performance. With a dynamic set built by Beau Barber’s carpentry students and parents, costumes created and pieced together by students and supporters, sound design and lighting to match the gritty 80s feel and a show sure to rock, the musical will run the weekends of April 20-22 and 27-29.

“It’s great music, great dancing, great fun and the audience will be singing along,” assistant director Gillie Nichols said. “Come out and support Stage Left!”