Monday, July 8, 2019

“Rock of Ages” Rocks The House of Cygnet


On the Richter Scale of measured energy at the opening night performance of Chris D’ Arienzo’s rock opera (with orchestrations by Ethan Popp’)  “Rock of Ages”, I would estimate that the numbers were off the charts putting the two earthquakes just experienced in So. Cal. to shame.

Directed by Sean Murray, the show runs for two + hours and the house of Cygnet is still on solid ground. A 90 -minute intermission- less show might have had the same effects without trying to drag on the sappy and silly story of boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl. But as we know it's not about the love triangle it's all about the music.
Brian Banville as Stacee Jaxx
From the enthusiasm showed by its target audience, the memories of the decades (the 80’s) old musical genre of Rock N’ Roll still seem to be held dear to so many. As for the others in the minority (myself included) the time couldn’t go by fast enough. With a loosely strung together book, low humor level, broadly etched characters and a raucous juke -box musical, things went south for yours truly sooner rather than later.

Zackary Scot Wolfe and Berto Fernandez
The deafening sound or noise never quite synced with my ears to help me with whatever dialogue was being said to capture D’Arienzo’s ‘story’. There was, however a lot of stuff going on in the bathroom, (“I Want To Know What Love Is”) clearly seen on stage in various configurations (Sean Fanning) of the Bourbon Room on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, the place it all happened.

Stringing together the vintage songs of Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon (“Can’t Fight This Feeling”), Foreigner, Journey, Styx, and Twisted Sister where almost none of the names of the recording artists reached my memory bank, was also high on my disconnect list. While the musical journey was like a foreign language, the ordinary and a bland story, comes right out of a playbook 101. There is another love story going on. Stay focused.

Megan Carmitchel and Brian Banville
A miserly German (Jon Rosen) real estate developer threatens Rock Club existence. He wants to turn the area, where strip clubs rule, into a strip -mall. He and his milquetoast son (Zackary Scott Wolfe) hassle the then owner of the club Dennis Dupree (Berto Fernandez) and his assistant Lonny (Victor E. Chan) in some of the funniest moments of the evening.

The regulars protest and protest some more getting the city involved (Emma Nossal). As parts of the clubs, restaurants and motels fall to the wrecking balls, projection designer Blake McCarty, sound designer TJ Fucella and lighting designer Amanda Zieve’s spot on vintage films of the strip can be seen on the backdrop of the stage behind the bandstand where the musicians, under the musical direction of conductor Patrick Marion and his four piece band prove themselves to deliver the goods.
Roy Gilbert and  Megan Carmitchel
Into this mess add a romantic interest and developing love triangle between a bus boy/ struggling musician working in the club, Drew (Rory Gilbert) new girl in town, Sherrie (Megan Carmitchel) and the narcissistic glam rock star, Stacee Jaxx (Brian Banville). Fret not the ending is predictable!

The charismatic Chan acts as M.C playing the audience like a well tuned acoustic guitar engaging the audience throughout the evening, running up and down the isles and singling out certain audience members bringing the show closer to home and breaking the fourth wall. Bravo performance.
Victor E. Chan and cast
Katie Banville choreographed the non- stop movement with her bevvy of 80’s looking Rockettes with wild gusto as the band played on. Dressed to the 80’s nines by Jennifer Braun Gittings, gave it all a surreal look. Some pretty huge wigs by wig-master Peter Herman donned the characters as well. Some improvements might be made on the male wigs that seemed to be charting their own courses.
Anise Ritchie
Mention must be made of the beautiful and talented Anise Ritchie as Justice the owner of the strip club next door to the Bourbon Room (and in the opening scene Sherrie’s mother), the energetic dancers (Siri Hafso, Bailey Day Sonner, Tamara Rodriguez, Bailey Day Sonner) and of course boy who meets girl and girl’s somewhat innocence and makes it look real. 

Across the bridge, Lamb’s Players is offering up for the summer duration “miXtape” another 80’s musical revue.  So the 80’s are back in town for another round of musical reminiscing. 

For those still in the 80’s time warp… "Don’t Stop Believin’"

Dates: Through Aug. 25th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre Company
Phone: 619-337-1525
Production Type: Rock Musical
Where: 4040 Twiggs Street, San Diego, 92110
Ticket Prices: Start at $35.00
Web: cygnettheatre.org
Venue: Theatre in Old Town
Photo: Ken Jacques

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