By Beki Pineda
ROCK OF AGES. Written by Christopher d’Arienzo; directed by Scott Beyette. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe Ave.) through Nov. 11, 2017. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or http://www.bdtstage.com/.
C’mon, all you old rockers out there. This is your show! You get to revisit the music of your childhood—Def Leppard, Journey, Scorpions, Poison, Foreigner, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bon Jovi and many many more. Hair—beautiful hair! Guitar riffs, miniskirts, headbands, bell bottoms . . . ah, the good old days! ROCK OF AGES is another jukebox musical celebrating the music of the ’80s, so if you were born in the ’50s or ’60s, this one is for you. They are even passing shots around before the show!
This classic rock music is strung loosely over a story that has to do with a nightclub on the Strip in L.A. called the Bourbon Room, which is threatened by a German father-and-son development team that wants to demolish this section of the Strip and put in a mall. In a last-ditch attempt to save the club, the owners, Lonny and Dennis, invite rock star Stacee Jaxx to return to the club for one last concert with his band, Arsenal. Throw in a little romance, a little misunderstanding and a LOT of music, and you’ve got a show.
The company at BDT has been together for so long and know each other so well, they perform with the precision and style of the Rockettes. This show throws several relatively new faces into the mix that add to the joy. Olyvia Sydelle has grown up in front of BDT audiences, first playing child roles and now in an absolutely adult performance as Sherrie, the talented but clueless girl straight from Kansas. As the real-life daughter of two of BDT’s longtime company members, she has been part of this family since birth. (Since they all three use different last names, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out who is related.) Olyvia knocks it out of the ballpark as the naive girl who becomes disillusioned by the world she enters but never loses her sweetness.
Tim Howard, who is more familiar to Town Hall Arts Center audiences, travels to Boulder to play Drew, the would-be rock star who is sweeping up and cleaning toilets at the club just to get his foot in the door. He falls in love with Sherrie as soon as she walks in and instigates the classic boy-meets-girl scenario. He brings sweetness and innocence to the role as well as a kickass voice.
Barret Harper dances back into our hearts after too long an absence from BDT. He plays Lonnie, one of the owners of the Bourbon Club and the narrator of the story, talking directly to the audience to place the story in history and fill in the blanks between songs. Barret always brings a special light to any stage he appears on; he was born to be on stage and it just bursts out of him whenever he gets that opportunity. He broke my heart as Patsy in SPAMALOT; he wowed audiences at Candlelight in HELLO, DOLLY; he was a powerful presence in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at the Arvada Center, and now you lucky people get to see him again, bouncing all over the stage and smiling that million-dollar smile.
Brian Burron makes a serious statement and then lightens up as Hertz Klinemann, the villainous German developer. Valerie Igoe takes a hilarious turn as Regina (pronounced Ra-giiii-na), the leader of the protest against tearing down the club. Joanie Brosseau-Rubald has her fun as the Stevie Nicks look-alike owner of the strip club next door. Scott Severtson gets to live out his rock-star dreams as Stacee Jaxx, the hard-drinking, girl-chasing has-been living on his past reputation. Scott Beyette, with his usual solid, charming performing style, doubles as both director and actor, playing Dennis, the other owner of the club. Surround this amazing group of singer/dancers with a high-performing ensemble and you’ll find yourself laughing and singing along. I don’t usually like it when performers on stage try to get the audience clapping along with the music, but in this case, I found myself joining in without even thinking about it. That’s how much fun we were all having.
One of the hardest things about making a musical enjoyable on all levels is getting the correct balance between the voices and the source of the music (live band, tracks, etc.). The audience wants to be able to hear the lyrics as sung, and the singers need to be able to hear the backup band in order to stay on key and in tempo. All too often the band, by sheer volume, overshadows the singers. Special kudos to audio designer Wayne Kennedy and longtime musical director Neal Dunfee for working together to get the sound in this loud but not overpowering musical to work. Lighting designer Brett Maughan also achieved some interesting side lighting that created fun patterns on the walls of the dining area. The costumes by always creative Linda Morken were era appropriate and showed a lot of leg.
The run on this one is just starting, so you’ve got all fall to come “Feel the Noize” and to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
WOW factor: 9