Mu­si­cal puts the ’80s back in style

The Daily Courier - - LIFE & ARTS - By AN­DRE WETJEN

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.”

Photo con­trib­uted

Wesla Wong and Duane English star in Rock of Ages, now play­ing at the Mary Ir­win Theatre.

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