REVIEW: ‘Rock of Ages,’ Company Theatre’s grand return to the stage, is packed with big dreams, spectacle, and wry rock nostalgia

If you decide to visit Hollywood, California, stop by the Bourbon Room, a real bar and nightclub inspired by the legendary fictional bar and nightclub in jukebox musical Rock of Ages.  The Bourbon Room opened last year in honor of the show’s 20th anniversary and if it contains half the wild antics of this edgy musical, it will be worth the trip.

The excitement was tangible as the Company Theatre prepared for their return to its signature indoor stage for the debut of Rock of Ages on Saturday, August 7.  The crowd was pumped for an uproarious good time as the booming sounds of 80s hits enlivened the stage and nostalgia took over not only for hair bands and jelly bracelets, but for a live show in person and in glorious color.

Caitlin Ford as Justice and Janis Hudson as Denise Dupree Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Directed by Zoe Bradford, musically directed by Steve Bass, and choreographed by Sally Ashton Forrest, The Company Theatre presents Rock of Ages without an intermission through Sunday, August 22 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. This show is not for young kids. Please note this show run has some rotating cast members.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Packed with colorful characters doused with a mix of rock raunchiness and self aware humor, Rock of Ages holds a mirror up to the era of excess and distinct self expression.  Steering this club is Brad Reinking as Lonny, the Bourbon’s impulsive no-holds-barred co-owner, resident storyteller, and narrator.  According to Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond, Reinking improvised a portion of the dialogue with local references and contemporary quips the audience and not even the cast saw coming.   Reinking shines as Lonny, his strong voice and penchant for dark humor work well in a script that never takes itself too seriously.

Part love story, part rebellion, and mostly musical, Rock of Ages is set in the 80s on the Sunset Strip where idealistic Sherrie (Emily Lambert) and guitar strumming dreamer Drew (Braden Misiaszek) long for stardom and are not sure where to start.  They set their sights inside the fledgling Bourbon Room, an aging nightclub and bar in danger of being shut down unless someone takes action.

Shane Hennessey as Stacee Jaxx Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Performed by an intimate group of musicians led by Steve Bass, Rock of Ages is fueled by a wide range of 80’s hits that are clearly a trip down memory lane for some including Journey, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner enhanced by Forrest’s intense choreography.   Emily Lambert boasts powerful vocals as wide-eyed yet determined Sherrie and does a terrific job teaming up with Caitlin Ford as complex yet confident Justice in a powerful medley of Quarterflash’s Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night.  Lambert also shines in a sweet yet intense rendition with Misiaszek for Extreme’s More than Words, Bad English’s To Be with You, and Warrant’s Heaven medley.   Melissa Carubia as spunky and resourceful renegade Regina is all spirit and heart for Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take it and light and amusing rendition of Starship’s We Built this City and Styx’s Too Much Time on My Hands

Shane Hennessey makes a big entrance as mysterious Stacy Jaxx (in a nod to another famous 80s rocker) to Bon Jovi’s Dead or AliveRyan Barrow’s vibrant set design is on point especially one scene in a nightclub bathroom.  It is easy to feel the grime watching that signature nightclub bathroom from the audience.  Janis Hudson portrays compelling Denise Dupree with a tough façade, dry humor, and a Joan Jett vibe while Christopher Spencer offers some refreshing and sometimes goofy comic relief as Franz.

The Rock of Ages cast Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

That is just a taste of the wide range of rock numbers in store.  A jukebox rock musical, Rock of Ages is best enjoyed as an extended MTV music video at a time when music was mainly performed on MTV. The rock medleys have cheek and sass and in the real world oozing with serious drama (where to start) Rock of Ages is meant as pure entertainment and each fun loving character a representation of a lighter time. You may find yourself bobbing your head, singing along, or both to the catchy tunes you may or may not have lived through, but nonetheless have stood the test of time in their own vibrant way.

Prior to the Rock of Ages musical on opening night, Company Theatre offered a VIP pre-show that featured plenty of 80s nostalgia and delicious treats including Pop Rocks, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers, vintage-style cupcakes, and a special Ecto Cooler cocktail.

The Company Theatre presents Rock of Ages without an intermission through Sunday, August 22 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.   Click here for more information, upcoming events, and tickets.

REVIEW: Season 5 of WGBH’s ‘Sing That Thing!’ still packs a vocal punch

Maybe there was a moment watching American Idol or The Voice where that person auditioning is a friend, acquaintance, or just familiar somehow.  Perhaps it’s a moment of six degrees of separation where suddenly Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, or Katy Perry are not so out of reach now that the person you know knows them.

Now imagine how much likelier that might happen watching WGBH’s popular local singing competition, Sing that Thing! kicking off its fifth season on Friday, April 12 on WGBH 2.  Composed of eighteen dynamic choral ensembles over this season from Boston and beyond, each group competes by creating a unique vocal performance within variety of music genres as coaches decide who will make it to the next round and give feedback on their performances.  Click here for further details.

Divided into three categories consisting of adult, high school, and college, the coaches measure on factors such as visual performance, musicality, intonation, and projection during the course of eight episodes.  Expect less of the Hollywood glitz and glamour and much more insight into what it truly takes to deliver a thrilling performance.

Sing that Thing’s Season five coaches include Anthony Trecek-King, President and Artistic Director of the Boston Children’s Chorus, Jared Bowen, Executive Arts Editor at WGBH and host of Open Studio, and Annette Phillip, vocalist and creative director of Women of the World and Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music.

Sing That Thing Season 5

From L to R: Coaches Anthony Trecek-King, Annette Phillip, and Jared Bowen Photo credit to Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Sing that Thing’s season five premiere returns to its roots in a way by showcasing a couple of talented groups from its first season.  Season one returning champs Boston Arts Academy Spirituals competes with  The Zumbyes from Amherst College also featured on the first season.  Univoz Vocal Ensemble also joins the competition, making their debut on the show with original compositions.  Sing that Thing! offers a peek into how these ensembles prepare to perform and get ready for their sheer energy!  Whether singing a tender ballad or a resounding hymn, these sophisticated and lively ensembles are the real deal.

Click here for more on Sing that Thing’s new season starting on Friday, April 12 at 8 pm on WGBH 2.  This program can also be seen on WGBX 44, WGBY, New Hampshire PBS, Vermont PBS, Maine Public, and CPTV – Connecticut Public Television.  Apply to be a part of Sing that Thing’s sixth season here and catch up on previous episodes here.  Find out more about Sing that Thing! on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #singthatthing.

 

 

Renowned Broadway producer Ken Davenport talks Tony Awards, Hollywood, and ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’

Ambitious Tony award-winning Broadway and off-Broadway theatre producer and writer Ken Davenport has had a passion for theatre his entire life.  He has produced renowned musicals from Godspell to Kinky Boots to this year’s Tony-nominated Once on This Island and helms the North American activity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group.  Dedicated to bridge the gap between the stage and its audience, he is also behind an interactive theatre app, Didhelikeit as well as the hit board game, Be a Broadway Star.

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Ken Davenport Photo courtesy of Ken Davenport

Ken talked to Sleepless Critic about when he first discovered the theatre, Hollywood and the Tony Awards, and his upcoming musical comedy, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Click here for more on Ken Davenport and see who the the big winners are on the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards hosts

Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles Photo credit: Cliff_Lipson-CBS

Sleepless Critic:  What awakened your interest in theatre and how did the opportunity to become a Broadway producer come about?

Ken Davenport:  My mom told me I first kicked when she was watching a production of Godspell, so I think I’ve always wanted to be part of the theatre.  I produced the first revival of Godspell on Broadway in 2011.

Being a producer is like starting your own business.  Opportunities don’t come about.  You have to make them happen.

SC:  What do you like most about producing and what production did you find to be the most challenging?

KD:  I love watching the audience’s expressions on their faces at the end of the show whether they are laughing, crying, or cheering.  We’ve affected them and that’s a joy to watch.

The most challenging part of producing is getting everyone on the same page.  It’s like getting ten people to paint the Mona Lisa.

SC:  Is there a show you turned down that you ended up wishing you were a part of?

KD:  Nah, I have no regrets.  I’ve passed on shows that have gone on to be hits, but they weren’t me.  They still wouldn’t be me, even if I had a few more bucks in my pocket.  I’d much rather stay true to what I want to do.

SC:  The musical, Mean Girls is one of the big Tony nominees this year and it is one of many Hollywood to Broadway musical crossovers.  From Pretty Woman to Heathers, do you think that this method has been an effective way to draw a wider audience to Broadway?  From what I’ve seen of Mean Girls and having recently seen Waitress, it seems to be working well.

KD:  Movies have become a common source for adaptations in the last ten years, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  I think the adaptations that work best are the ones that don’t have super popular source material.  It’s like when a movie is made from a book.  Most people think the book is better.  That happens a lot when popular movies are made into musicals.  It’s a very high hurdle to jump over.

SC:  What has been your favorite Hollywood to Broadway crossover musical so far?

KD:  Kinky Boots because I am one of the producers.

SC:  From classic musicals like Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel to Spongebob Squarepants, what nominations most surprised you and which did you think should have been nominated?

KD:  I think my choreographer from Once on this Island, Camille A. Brown should have been nominated as well as Alex Newell.

SC:  Which do you predict will be the standout production to win?  I’m sure you were thrilled when Once on This Island was nominated, a show you have produced.

KD:  I think the awards this year will be spread out amongst several shows rather than one big winner taking home multiple awards.

SC:  You work to make Broadway a more interactive experience.  Please tell me about the apps you promote.

KD:  We have an app for our website, Didhelikeit.com that gives you a snapshot of show reviews and focuses on the New York Times.

Gettin the Band Back Together

‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ premieres on July 19.

SC:  Just a few of the productions you have worked on is Groundhog DaySpring Awakening, and The Play That Goes Wrong.  The musical comedy, Getting the Band Back Together is coming up.

KD:  I’m super excited about Gettin’ the Band Back Together, which starts performances on July 19.  It’s such a fun show to be a part of and totally original.  It has an original story, music, etc.  It’s going to be a blast so come see it!

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Click here for more information on Ken Davenport and here for more on Ken’s current project, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, find out who wins on CBS for the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10 at 8 p.m.  Follow The Tony Awards on Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

Walt Disney World at its finest in fall

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Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party

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Epcot’s Botanical Gardens

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Key Lime Wine and a dish from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival 2016

 

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Cinderella’s Castle in October

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Spaceship Earth at Epcot

 

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Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival

Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night.  Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration.  No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from September through November 2016.  Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park.  Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.

Along with the long list of Magic Kingdom’s wonderful, classic rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain, take some time to visit some of Disney’s spooky attractions in the spirit of the season such as Haunted Mansion, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom on Main Street.  A select number of rides are open late into the night.  From September 2 through October 31, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is built for all ages and features an array of Halloween shows, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, A Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular set up outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and a seasonal themed fireworks celebration.

Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country.  Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival from September 14 to November 14.  While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces.  Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more.  Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park.  From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.

While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s new ride, Frozen, Soarin,’ Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase.  With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world.  Having thrilled families for over 45 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks.  Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year.  Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more.  It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.