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BWW Review: UCO's ROCK OF AGES is a Chart-Topping Hit at the Jazz Lab

UCO rocks with music of the 80s at the Jazz Lab. Rock of Ages is a fun, sexy romp celebrating the hairbands of L.A.'s Sunset Strip.

BWW Review: UCO's ROCK OF AGES is a Chart-Topping Hit at the Jazz Lab

Rock of Ages is a parody musical about the hairband craze that swept the nation in the mid to late 1980s. L.A.'s infamous Sunset Strip became the site of a modern-day Gold rush, leaving unknowns and Rockstar wannabes flocking to it in droves. The music in the '80s ushered in a new era of sexual freedom. It was the collective cathartic release of a generation wedged between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the AIDS crisis. The 1980s created some of the best music the world has ever been given, and truly will never be topped as one of the best decades for everything extra - hair, clothes, music, people. Everything was higher than high, and nobody wanted the party to stop.

The jukebox musical by Chris D'Arienzo makes fun of and celebrates all the ridiculous and wonderful things about this unique time in American music history. It features music by Styx, Journey, Steve Perry, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, and more hit artists and hairbands. UCO's production at the Jazz Lab is a rock 'n roll party from start to finish.

Rock of Ages features several main characters - all on their own unique and starry-eyed journeys. When Sherrie moves to L.A. from small town Kansas to pursue acting, she meets and falls in love with Drew, a musician with his own dreams. The two go to work at The Bourbon Room, a glittery, grungy bar that draws the biggest names of the day. Rockstar front man Stacee Jaxx is leaving his band Arsenal at the height of their fame, going solo and shocking the world with his departure. The Bourbon Room books him for his farewell show. As can be expected, chaos and heartbreak ensue, and power ballads and rock-out tunes guide the journey.

Auburn Hilliard is sweet as Sherrie, playing her as loveable and slightly awkward. The girl next door vibe gives way when Sherrie goes through hard times. Hilliard is tenacious and tough, letting her strength quietly grow as she steps into her own and learns to stand up for herself. Drew Boley is portrayed by Collin Skelton. Skelton has a great singing voice. He's a powerhouse and his Drew is pure in heart. He's also loveably clueless and frustratingly dense. Skelton's confidence grows as he learns to see what's right in front of him.

Logan Wright is Lonny, a manager of The Bourbon Room and the de facto narrator of the tale. Wright is raunchy and hilarious, crude and brazen. He keeps everyone on the edges of their seats, anticipating the next shocking words out of his mouth. Lonny is the fourth-wall breaking character, and the best moments occur when Wright talks to the audience and the characters as this outside presence.

Caleb Barnett steals every scene, absolutely every scene, as Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree. Barnett proves once again that there's no role he can't do. It's always a joy to watch him perform, and this time is no exception. Barnett is simply and understatedly a star. As Dennis he's animated and sweet, bringing levity and well-timed humor to the ridiculous farce that is Rock of Ages.

Stacee Jaxx is the man of the hour, and he's played with intoxicating arrogance by Logan Corley. Corley captures all the facets of this dazzling character - he's got the looks, the voice, the vanity. Stacee is a character you love to hate and hate to love, and these mingled feelings produce pure joy in the audience. All we want is more Stacee, and Corley is happy to give it to us. Corley proves himself to be perfect for the role and is the complete package.

Sarah Zorn is Constance Sack, a journalist who's doing a cover story on Stacee Jaxx's departure from Arsenal. Constance meets Stacee at The Bourbon Room and their interactions are steeped in lusty glares and heated dialogue. Corley and Zorn have chemistry that's palpable, and when Zorn lets her hair down, she brings the sexy to level ten.

Gentrification is the enemy of any true rocker, and when big business swoops in to demolish the Sunset Strip, the rockers fight back. Hertz Klineman is portrayed by Graeme Morrison. A true villain, Morrison is just sneaky enough to seem untrustworthy and ambiguous. Morrison plays it off with charm and deception, and even brings a redeeming quality or two to the role. Avery Ernsberger is the younger Klineman Franz. Hertz's son wants to do right by his father, but he also must follow his heart. When Ernsberger finally lets loose, it's to the tune of an uproarious audience that cheers him on and shouts with glee.

All good protest art needs a protestor, and Regina McKaig is committed to her cause. Alexis Lanzo plays her with fire and fury, a woman on a mission with the goal to save rock 'n roll. She protests and pickets the construction of a strip mall, and goes toe-to-toe with the Klinemans.

Jaylon Crump is the Mayor and Ja'Keith, and he brings his own level of bad-boy to each role. Crump has physical comedy down to an art, and is smart and savvy as both characters.

Caprie Gordon is Justice, a strip club owner who takes Sherrie in. Gordon is sexy and sultry, a wise business woman who has made a name for herself, thriving in a man's world. She's seen it all and knows what Sherrie is going through. Gordon is breathtaking on stage. It's impossible to take your eyes off her, and she practically floats across the stage. Completing the cast is Shafer Wilkerson as Joey Primo. Wilkerson is always a brilliant performer and he once again kills it in this appearance.

Choreography by Amy Reynolds-Reed is non-stop, and the ensemble is absolutely dynamite. Skylar Hemenway, Alyssa Hedding, and Sarah Zorn are constantly moving and dancing all night long, with one costume change after the other. They're ferocious and seductive, in a word- they're hot!

The band kicks ass and doesn't miss a beat. It's made up of Jay Gleason and Than Medlam on guitar, Clinton Trench on bass, and Mike Mosteller on drums. Mariann Searle is on keys and serves as Music Director.

Rock of Ages is directed by Ashley Wells with Sam Brinkley serving as Assistant Director. It rocks so hard, makes you laugh and cry and dance in your seat. The intimacy of this venue and the fun of this show combines into a perfect night.

Rock of Ages made me realize I had missed live theatre and live music so much more than I even knew, and healed my heart in ways I hadn't known it was hurting. Rock and roll will never die, and it's lucky we have this love letter to 80s rock to help us celebrate it when we need it most.

Rock of Ages closes April 11th, 2021. UCO will be back in May with Ain't Misbehavin', directed by UCO alum and Hamilton star Erin Clemons. For more info on their upcoming productions, visit the UCO College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) website at uco.edu/cfad. Special thanks to UCO MT Director Greg White and UCO's Broadway Tonight for their support of the arts and arts journalism. You Rock!


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From This Author Adrienne Proctor