Cast singing “Don’t Stop Believing” (Photos courtesy of Brett Brucklacher)
by Maddie Qualls, editor
A synthesis of talents–Maria Carrillo High School’s production of Rock of Ages–did not disappoint. The live band, musical numbers, enthusiastic acting, and extravagant costume design meshed together to create a dramatic, humorous and sweet musical.
Rock of Ages tells the tale of aspiring actress Sherrie Christian (Georgia Laganiere) and wannabe rockstar Drew Boley (Diego Rodriguez), who are chasing their dreams in Hollywood. They meet by chance on the streets of Los Angeles when Sherrie’s purse is stolen and Drew rushes to help her. It’s the classic love-at-first-sight scene. Drew takes Sherrie back to The Dupree Room, the famous bar he works at. Then, Dennis Dupree, the bar owner (Stephan Donlon), agrees to give Sherrie a job. Sherrie and Drew attempt to navigate their careers and their feelings for each other, but, of course, this does not go smoothly. The opportunistic, corrupt Hilda (Malia DesBiens) and her son, Franz (Jacob Greenfield), threaten to tear down The Dupree Room and redo the entire part of town. Meanwhile, egotistical rockstar Stacee Jaxx (Sean Nash) arrives to play his final gig with his band at The Dupree Room. This all leads to the separation of the two lovers, who have to overcome personal and professional trials before they reunite.
What really made this musical unique was the narration by Lonny Barnett (Reilly Trainor), who also plays an active role in the musical’s action. The narrator frequently addresses the audience directly, recognizing that the characters are in a musical. In one instance, Lonny goes as far to acknowledge that they are in a musical in front of Drew–much to his bewilderment. Trainor’s bold, witty performance was undoubtedly a highlight of the night.
The acting overall was phenomenal. Lageniere played a wonderful doe-eyed, whimsical, and innocent Sherrie, and Rodriguez’s Drew was perfectly charming, clueless, and head-over-heels in love. Two of my favorite scenes from Laganiere and Rodriguez were the picnic and train station. In the picnic scene, Laganiere and Rodriguez did an excellent job conveying the nerves surrounding their first date, especially when Drew blunders about being friends and Sherrie’s evident disappointment. In contrast, the train station scene was really cute because they finally got together in rom-com fashion, with dramatic hugs and proclamations of feelings.
Other stand-out performances were Donlon’s powerful, commanding Dennis Dupree, Catherine Kiernan’s feisty, rebellious Regina, Spencer Hayes’ foolishly comical Mayor and Sean Nash’s arrogant, conceited Stacee Jaxx.
On top of the acting, the singing was excellent as well. In particular, Laganiere’s sweet voice really stood out in musical performances. My favorite musical act was “Don’t Stop Believing,” which included signs, props, and jubilant choreography to accent it.
One thing that set this musical apart from MCHS’s past plays was the band. It was really cool to experience a collaboration between Carrillo’s drama and band programs. The live instrumentals really enhanced all of the musical numbers. The music was flawless and super fun. Furthemore, the band was key for adding dramatic effects to the scenes.
Another aspect of the musical that I adored was the costume design. The outfits were incredibly eye-catching, vibrant, ‘80s-inspired, and wonderfully showy, with bright neons, metallic fabrics, sequins, glitter, loud patterns, and leather. The costumes perfectly matched the personalities of the characters, such as Stacee’s ostentatiously large belt buckle and the Mayor’s glitzy, garish blazer. The makeup and hair were flashy as well, with colorful, shimmery eyeshadow and teased hair. I can’t even imagine how much hairspray they needed.
The musical’s only drawbacks were that some lines were hard to hear partly because the actors’ voices were overpowered by the band and also because the mics did not always function perfectly. Other than that, the lines were delivered well, and the musical numbers were very enjoyable.Altogether, Rock of Ages was delightfully entertaining, visually intriguing and incredibly comical. And I loved the Prensa cameo!