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BWW Review: Theatre Under the Stars' ROCK OF AGES Blows the Roof Off of The Hobby Center


Rock of Ages is a rock party that blows the roof off the Hobby Center

BWW Review: Theatre Under the Stars' ROCK OF AGES Blows the Roof Off of The Hobby Center
Diana Huey as Sherrie a??a??a??a??and ensemble
members in Rock of Ages

Theatre Under The Stars bursts with Rock n Roll energy as they reopen at the Hobby Center after a 19-month intermission with Rock of Ages. On October 7th, Chris D'Arienzo's rock party opened to great applause as a nostalgic night out greeted Houstonians becoming a much-needed break from the turbulent world. As one walks into the Hobby Center, one can feel a sense of normalcy of a pre-pandemic life as patrons can feel the buzzing of excitement they are about to witness.

Rock of Ages is a cheesy 80's love letter to mega bands such as Guns and Roses, Poison, and singers like Pat Benatar. The audience meets Lonny (Justin Collette), who is our narrator throughout this story, and guides the audience through this exciting night. The trouble begins when German land developer Hertz (Brian Mathis) and his son Franz (Drew Redington) come to California to build a capitalistic landscape filled with fast-food restaurants like Arby's. Owner of the last Rock n Roll venue on the Sunset Strip, the Bourbon Room, Dennis (Steven Bogard) and our friend Lonny came up with a scheme to save their venue and continue their music dreams by hiring the lothario and Bret Michaels look-alike Stacee Jaxx (Brett Stoelker) to sing at their venue. This all becomes the backdrop of the love story between Drew (Justin Matthew Sargent) and Sherrie (Diana Huey) as they both have come to sunny Los Angeles to pursue their dreams of Rock n Roll fame and movie stardom.

TUTS imagining of this musical party is the very definition of camp. Audience members are encouraged to come decked out in their rock n roll gear, as many at my performance were wearing concert shirts of their favorite bands. Everyone is in on the humor and frivolity as Lonny breaks the fourth wall allowing us to know the emotions behind the character's intentions. Director and choreographer Jessica Hartman has their actors dance and move with excitement and inviting the audience to clap and dance along with those on stage.

Some of the standout actors of the musical are Justin Collette as Lonny and Diana Huey of Miss Saigon fame as Sherrie. Both are easy nominations for leading actors in a musical as they provide some of the best vocals and acting of the night. Huey is incredibly excellent in her role as Sherrie, as one can feel her excitement and her dulcet vocals when she encounters adversity. Huey's rendition of Pat Benatar's Harden My Heart is one of the best of the night as Sherrie deals with heartbreak. Other outstanding performances come from Nicole Powell as Justice, the matron of a sleazy strip bar. Powell's powerful voice of Shadow of the Night and accompanying vocals are some of the best in the city of Houston.

The design elements of the show also provide some of the most astonishing aspects of the show. Colleen Grady's costume design is filled with 80's fashion "realness" as many audience members remarked, "I wore that exact same outfit!" The scenic elements were huge and moved in unimaginable ways and only occasionally seemed to slow down the action. The most epic of all the design elements was the video and projections by Mary Hope Ballou, which often provided some of the best satire of the evening.

BWW Review: Theatre Under the Stars' ROCK OF AGES Blows the Roof Off of The Hobby Center
Teresa Zimmerman and ensemble members
Austin Colburn, Alex Cruz, Karma Jenkins, Tracy Sokat,
Ryan Winkler, and Ricardo Zayas.

ROCK OF AGES by TUTS is a fantastic production and deserves to be seen by all. The cast features Justin Collette as Lonny, Steven Bogard as Dennis, Justin Matthew Sargent as Drew, Diana Huey as Sherrie, Nicole Powell as Mother/Justice, Brett Stoelker as Father/Stacee Jax, Teresa Zimmerman as Regina, Brian Mathis as Hertz, Drew Redington as Franz, and rounding out the ensemble is Austin Colburn, Alex Cruz, Karma Jenkins, Tracy Sokat, Ryan Winkler, and Ricardo Zayas.

ROCK OF AGES runs through October 17th at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts located at 800 Bagby St in the heart of downtown Houston. More information can be found at Live shows are Tuesday thru Sunday evenings, with most performances starting at 7:30 pm and two matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Masks are required to attend and a negative COVID test that is less than two days old or proof of vaccination. One way to beat the lines in is to download the Bindle app, where you can upload your vaccination status or a recent COVID test.

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