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: Massasoit Theatre’s Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ is big fun with a razor’s edge

At first glance, Massasoit Theatre Company’s Heathers the Musical possesses the earmarks of a classic musical production.  Enter calculating villains and an unlikely hero singing thought-provoking songs in a retro setting wearing distinctive, colorful costumes.  Every meaningful musical usually also delivers a powerful message and it is part love story.  Yes, Heathers delivers all these things, but like its satirical film predecessor, does it in the unlikeliest of ways.  A musical quite faithful to the original film right down its vocabulary of memorable catch phrases, here is fair warning that this production is not suitable for children and contains mature themes.

Heathers collage

Massasoit Theatre Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Directed skillfully by Nathan Fogg, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Going into Heathers the Musical, it was difficult to imagine a musical as dark as the satiric comedy film starring Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  However, Massasoit captures the film’s high energy, blunt, and darkly humorous look at high school where being popular is seemingly the only means for survival.  With an array of songs that are both humorous and shocking, it also deals with many social issues that high school students face today, but stands outside reality from it just enough to see from the outside.

Arrive early because Heathers the Musical does an excellent job setting the 80s mood through vintage Mtv videos and commercials as well as a unique introduction from the show’s producer, Mark Rocheteau.  Not only does Heathers feature a multi-layered set design with its share of special effects, but Jennifer Spagone’s symbolic costume design contrast bold colors with pale to represent different high school personalities while exacting the iconic fashion from the film.

Before the Plastics leapt onto the screen in the hit film Mean Girls, there were the Heathers.  If the Plastics ruled with a heavy hand, the Heathers ruled with an iron fist.  Adorned in strictly bold, primary colors and slinking into the school as if on a catwalk, CJ Hawes in red depicts Heather Chandler with charismatic cruelty, her head held high and an ego as inflated as her big hair.  CJ’s soprano vocals have an appealing belt and growl while she shares great chemistry with the other Heathers, especially during the numbers Big Fun and Candy Store.  She barks orders to sympathetic subordinate Heather Duke portrayed by Stephanie Wallace.  Dressed in emerald green, Stephanie portrays Heather with a suppressed, bullied demeanor.  Morgan Campbell in yellow portrays anxious, but friendly Heather McNamara with flair and offers a great rendition of the number, Lifeboat.

Heathers the Musical Veronica and J.D

Sara Comeau portrays Veronica and Sean Neary as J.D. Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Sara Comeau in blue plays awkward and conflicted Veronica Sawyer.  A complicated role, Sara captures Veronica’s clever, contemplative, and at times, sarcastic demeanor with great comic timing.  Veronica and Sean Neary as quiet and mysterious J.D. have compelling chemistry as they navigate the dark side of high school.

Heathers the Musical Jocks

Jack Cappadona as Kurt and Anthony Light as Ram Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Anthony Light and Jack Cappadona are immensely comical as mindless and merciless jocks while Emily Buckley as Martha evokes a sweet and impalpable loneliness.  Kels Ferguson plays a dual role as Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Sawyer.  She brought down the house with her upbeat version of Shine a Light.

Heathers the Musical Shine

Shine a Light Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

With a retro and dark, but powerful message, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook.

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