Musical puts the ’80s back in style
Big hair, acid wash jeans, brightly coloured apparel and gooey hair gel comes back in fashion as New Vintage Theatre presents the Tony award-winning musical Rock of Ages.
“I cast the leads last spring and was blown away by their talent and knew this would be a tremendous experience,” said New Vintage artistic director Bonnie Gratz. “A year later, I think we have all found it has been one of the most complex projects we have ever embarked on — and certainly the most exciting.”
Starring in the lead roles of Drew and Sherrie are Duane English and Wesla Wong, who are also a real-life couple, Global TV weather people and accomplished musicians.
“I was very surprised when I got the lead role,” said Wong. “When I auditioned last year, I just wanted to get involved with something local and take on a new challenge.
“I was expecting maybe an ensemble role, so when Bonnie called and said she would like me to take on the role of Sherrie, I was speechless.”
English auditioned for the role of Drew only after Wong was cast as Sherrie.
“She was excited and I thought it would be fun to play opposite her in the musical, he said.
“It has been 32 years since I did anything like this, so musical theatre is way out of my comfort zone, but I think everyone, particularly as we get older, should challenge themselves and try new things.”
English’s first reaction to getting the role was “excitement.” “My second reaction was … ‘What have I done? How am I going to remember all my lines when I can’t even remember my own phone number?’”
Gratz invites everyone to come out to what she labels as a “fun, irreverent play,” encouraging all to dress up, rock out with the cast and sing along to the classics.
Rock of Ages moved from the stage to the silver screen in 2012. The movie starred country singer Julianne Hough and Latin actor Diego Boneta, leading an ensemble cast that included, among others, Alec Baldwin, Catherine ZetaJones, Mary J. Blige and Tom Cruise.
More than 40 artists are involved in the Kelowna Rock of Ages production, including an on-stage band comprised of Okanagan musicians Steve Soucy, Julie Masi (Parachute Club), Dennis Marcenko (Colin James, KD Lang), Jimmy
Leguilloux and Aaron Anderson (Trooper).
The rock musical features iconic ’80s iconic songs by Def Leppard, Journey, Scorpions, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Poison, Joan Jett, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, REO Speedwagon and others.
“There were so many sub-genres of rock in the ’80s, some of it great and admittedly, some of it cheesy garbage,” said English, who spent his high school years listening to the music of that era.
He said ’70s music had stagnated, with big expensive rock bands dominating that decade. A revolution in music and video technology changed all that.
“That shift in technology opened doors to small, independent musicians and bands, doors previously controlled and closed by record companies who held the purse strings,” added English. “The result was a lot more music being produced and that, of course, means there’s going to be more bad music, but also meant more good as well.
“For these reasons I think it was a very creative time in rock music, regardless of whether you are talking about pop, punk, new wave, traditional rock or hair metal.”
Wesla Wong and Duane English star in Rock of Ages, now playing at the Mary Irwin Theatre.