It’s Hollywood, in the late 80s, complete with big hair and big sunglasses and big hits. Stage West is putting on Rock of Ages, with arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp and book by Chris D’Arienzo and their production leaves no detail out. From the costuming to the songs, to the staging, this production nails it. It is the perfect blend of music and vocal talent, smart writing and outstanding performances. Even if you don’t think that you will like the show, Stage West will change your mind.
The musical tells a pretty shallow story but manages to strike a great balance between taking the story seriously and making fun of it. It’s all hosted and narrated by Lonny, (Michael De Rose) telling the story of Drew (Scott Beaudin) who is looking to make his break into rock music but right now he cleans toilets at Dennis’ (Kent Sheridan) Bourbon Room. Sherrie (Sarah Horsman) is just off the bus from Kansas looking to make it in Hollywood and falls for Drew, but there needs to be conflict so they don’t work at first. Things don’t really go her way and she winds up working for Justice (Daphne Moens) in her strip club. German developer Hertz Klinemann (David Talbot) with his son Franz Klinemann (Mark Allan) are threatening to knock down the strip to develop a mall and Regina (Jamie McRoberts) is protesting and fighting the development as best she can. So the Bourbon Room books the ridiculous musician Stacee Jaxx (Cary Shields) to try and make enough money to not get shut down.
The music is fun and the narrative lines up with the songs and it is blended so well. Director Tracey Flye has the first few bars of the song ring out to build anticipation in the audience. So you can hear Steve Perry’s Oh Sherrie coming and cannot wait for Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. The band on stage is a great aspect of the production.
De Rose is brilliant. He’s in your face and has mastered the lunge and his mullet suits the production. Beaudin and Horsman have powerful voices and are fantastic as the love story. Allan is a stand out performance as Franz and is so energetic and dynamic. Leslie Robison-Greene’s costume design needs to be mentioned as every detail is there, from the lycra to the hairspray.
Opening night of Rock of Ages saw the most engaged audience who were singing along with the characters on stage. Stage West’s production is a hit.
Stage West’s production of Rock of Ages runs until June 25. More information is available online.