Lat­est Dray­ton pro­duc­tion is crushin’ on the eight­ies

Big hair, span­dex and power bal­lads aplenty in Rock of Ages, which opened this week

The Woolwich Observer - - THE ARTS - STEVE KANNON

THE CLOTHES. THE HAIR. The mu­sic. Such is how we re­mem­ber the 1980s. Aw­ful and en­dur­ing, in no­tal­ways-equal mea­sure. Ac­tu­ally, it’s mostly the mu­sic that’s en­dured, thank­fully.

Com­bin­ing all three el­e­ments, glam metal epit­o­mized the era: ev­ery­thing was big, es­pe­cially the hair.

Trans­port­ing you back (if you re­mem­ber the first time around) or send­ing you there for the first, Rock of Ages fea­tures all the touch­stones. The Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment mu­si­cal opened this week at the Dun­field Theatre Cam­bridge.

Set to the sound­track of some ’80s hair band sta­ples, Rock of Ages takes us back to 1987 on Sun­set Strip, where boys and girls come to launch their Hol­ly­wood dreams of mu­sic, movies and star­dom. There we meet Drew Bo­ley, a Detroit boy with dreams be­ing a rock star … but work­ing as a bus­boy in a club. Along comes Sher­rie Chris­tian, a small-town girl lit­er­ally fresh off the bus with vi­sions of sil­ver screen glory.

Throw in an ef­fort to save the Bour­bon Room from politi­cians and de­vel­op­ers and you’ve got a self-styled goofy tribute to the ‘80s hard rock scene.

The mu­sic and the cos­tumes are of a time, but some of the un­der­pin­ning themes are not.

“The idea of want­ing to be a rock star is time­less,” says Kale Penny of his char­ac­ter, Drew Bo­ley, who “leaves Detroit for L.A., get­ting a job in a bar on Sun­set Strip – he’s try­ing to live the dream.”

And what would the story be with­out an­other time­less theme?

“They fall in love. Well, he falls in love right away. It’s the clas­sic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl.”

There’s also an­other love story that fu­els the pro­ducwere and the au­di­ences that come to see it: the mu­sic is a top-billing star. Rock of Ages in­cludes 28 clas­sic rock tunes such as Don’t Stop Believin’, We Built This City, The Fi­nal Countdown, Here I Go Again, Har­den My Heart and Can’t Fight this Feel­ing.

Born in 1989, Penny missed out on the mu­sic when it first came out, but some of the tunes well-known, be­ing sta­ples of ra­dio … along with the req­ui­site movie sound­tracks and even com­mer­cials. Songs by the likes of Jour­ney, Whites­nake and Bon Jovi, for in­stance.

“There are some gems of the era that I’ve grown to love,” says Penny of his im­mer­sion into the role.

That in­cludes Drew’s power bal­lad, War­rant’s Heaven – “I’d never heard it, but I’ve grown to love it.”

Penny first played the role for his home­town Van­cou­ver Arts Club. He has also ap­peared in You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown and Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet on the West Coast. This is his first out­ing with Dray­ton.

His love in­ter­est, Sher­rie, is played by some­one who’s no stranger to Dray­ton pro­tion

duc­tions. Jayme Arm­strong most re­cently ap­peared as Mil­lie in Thor­oughly Mod­ern Mil­lie and Lina La­mont in Singin’ in the Rain.

The cast also in­cludes Jamie McKnight, fresh from his per­for­mance as the ti­tle char­ac­ter in Joseph and the Amaz­ing Tech­ni­color Dream­coat, as the cocky rock megas­tar Stacee Jaxx, belt­ing out hits like Wanted Dead or Alive, Par­adise City and Rock You Like a Hur­ri­cane.

Broad­way per­former Aaron Walpole makes his Dray­ton En­ter­tain­ment de­but as Lonny, co-owner of The Bour­bon Room. A for­mer Cana­dian Idol semi-fi­nal­ist, Walpole has ap­peared in Les Misérables and Jesus Christ Su­per­star on Broad­way and on the national tour of Kinky Boots, among other shows. Mark Hara­piak takes on the role of Den­nis Dupree, Lonny’s busi­ness part­ner. Au­di­ences may rec­og­nize him as Ruben in Joseph and the Amaz­ing Tech­ni­color Dream­coat, and Bill Austin in Mamma Mia!, among other roles.

Rock of Ages is a de­mand­ing mu­si­cal, Penny notes, given the up-tempo mu­sic and the al­ways-in-mo­tion script.

“It re­quires a lot of mo­ti­va­tion and a lot of fo­cus,” he says, not­ing none of the cast is tak­ing the method act­ing ap­proach to their char­ac­ters. Liv­ing the lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t mix well with eight shows a week.

Rock of Ages runs at the Dun­field Theatre Cam­bridge un­til Novem­ber 5. Tick­ets are $46 ($27 for those un­der 20), avail­able on­line at www.dray­to­nen­ter­tain­ment.com, at the box of­fice or by call­ing 519-6218000 or toll free at 1-855 DRAY­TON (372-9866).

[SUB­MIT­TED]

The cast of Rock of Ages pumps up the vol­ume on 1980s glam metal in the pro­duc­tion now on stage the Dun­field Theatre Cam­bridge.

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