Friday night kicked off the two-week run of “Rock of Ages” by Orpheus Musical Theatre. Orpheus is known for their elaborate stage design, high-end costumes and the technical aspects of their show. “Rock of Ages” was no exception, and I have to say that it’s one of my favourite of the Orpheus shows that I’ve seen. It’s a perfect combination of fantastic music, entertaining and talented actors, and an amazing and versatile set! Through the entire show, which runs for a little over two hours including the intermission, I never once found myself looking at my watch or wondering when the intermission would be. My attention was locked in and I loved every minute of the performance. It was hilariously funny, thanks in particular to a few characters, it had a great story, and was pure quality entertainment.
This musical is based on everyone’s favourite 80’s rock music and is performed throughout the show by an incredible band located right on the stage of “The Bourbon Room”. The musicians, led by Kenny Hayes, were incredible, and absolutely nailed the music! The backstage rockers, who provided back-up vocals off stage, were also fantastic, and I left the theatre with this great music stuck in my head, and it has been for two days now. Some notable songs from this show include “Dead or Alive”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, and “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” among many others.
As far as the set goes, it wasn’t as mobile as some Orpheus set pieces that I have seen in the past, however, it was really creative, as I’ve become accustomed to with their musicals. Designed by Graham Galway, the set included a static bar and stage area in “The Bourbon Room,” with a men’s bathroom on stage left. I only point out the bathroom as it was the most creative element of the set design, and really stood out to me, as it was so versatile and was not like anything that I had ever seen before. I won’t ruin it for you though, you’ll see.
The costumes, designed by Susan Cole, and the make-up and hair, designed by Dalene Gallo and Stefan Kaleb, were both incredibly high quality, and truly reminiscent of the 80’s rock scene. These elements complemented the characters so well, and really made me feel as though I was right there in Los Angeles during the height of the 80’s rock revolution. The eccentric, electric makeup and hair design were so fun and added so much to this show, I was very impressed! I want hair like that!
Stand Out Performances:
Now, I always have a number of standout performances at any Orpheus production. The sheer caliber of talent in this company never fails to impress! This show’s standout performances were no exception, and I might even say that I experienced one of my favourite Orpheus performances of all time in Brennan Richardson’s portrayal of Lonny Barnett. Richardson was SO funny, SO charismatic, SO entertaining, that he had the audience laughing from start to finish. He brought so much life and energy to the stage; I enjoyed every minute of his performance! He has a raspy vocal style that was perfect for both the character and the rock genre, and really made this musical what it was. Side note: his dancing is also fantastic. For me to say that a performance was one of the best I have ever experienced at an Orpheus presentation is not typical, because at Orpheus, everyone is exceptional. But Richardson was magical in this role. I don’t think that I have ever seen him in a show before, but I hope that changes, because he is exceptional. Congratulations on an amazing performance!
Next, Connor McMahon was stellar in the role of Drew Boley. Despite being quite young, McMahon performs like a seasoned professional, and really shone as the likeable Drew. I raved about McMahon’s portrayal of Kenickie in Orpheus’ Grease a few years ago, and he was equally great in this role. A real highlight of this show is his voice, which was flawless during every number. I stand by my earlier statement that he has a very bright future in theatre. He is incredibly talented!
Paddy Allen-McCarthy was another standout, in the role of Franz Klineman. He brought a lot of humour to this show, and his stage presence is phenomenal. You can’t help but watch him during his scenes! For me, the best number in the entire production was his duet of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” with character Regina Koontz (Christa Cullain). He was very loveable in this role, and I really enjoyed his performance!
Christa Cullain was very strong in the role of Regina Koontz. She is another scene-stealer, commanding the attention of the audience when she is on the stage, and she truly embodies the concept of the “triple threat”: singing, dancing, and acting her way into the audience’s hearts. She did a great job!
Jerusha Lewis has been a favourite of mine since I saw her in Sister Act. Her voice is honestly one of the best that I have ever heard live, and I am certain that I will always enjoy any performance of hers. In this show, she plays Justice Charlier, and once again raises the bar on vocal performance in the Ottawa theatre scene.
Finally, D.J. Eyamie was unbelievably entertaining in the role of Stacee Jaxx. I feel as though to comment too much on his performance would give too much away, but Eyamie really embodied this character, taking it to the next level in each of his scenes, and the audience loved it. This type of role requires a very talented, and outgoing actor, and Eyamie is just that.
“Rock of Ages” runs almost daily until Sunday March 15th at Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe. As usual, tickets will likely sell out, and this is one performance that you don’t want to miss!
**All Photos provided by Alan Dean Photography