Featuring 28 nostalgic anthems, including the music of Pat Benatar, Styx, Twisted Sister, Poison, Foreigner, Reo Speedwagon and more, Rock of Ages pays homage to the big rock concerts of the 80s.
The musical takes audiences back to 1987 to the fabled West Hollywood club, the Bourbon Room and is set on LA’s infamous Sunset Strip.
It tells the story of Drew, a city boy from South Detroit and Sherrie, a small-town girl that have both landed up in LA to chase their dreams of making it big.
Rock of Ages celebrates a time when big glamour rock bands were the epitome of decadence, superficiality, oversized egos, never-ending guitar solos, extreme clothes and outrageous hairstyles.
Director Elizma Badenhorst said the process of bringing the “party of Broadway” to life from just being a stack of paper required her to let her imagination run wild.
“What I like to do when I get a script is to read it over and over again until I can start making my own pictures of it. I never look at reference pictures or videos. I prefer to not have seen it, so that I can have a unique take on the show.
“Then only later will I go look at what other people have done with it. I have been busy with this particular script for a year and a half,” Badenhorst said.
Rock of Ages. Picture: Supplied
In the last year, the biggest challenge with putting together Rock of Ages has been a busy schedule and working with a team that’s literally spread all over the country.
“I’m based in Cape Town and my team is here. So all our meetings have been over Skype. So we would have nine people in various cities and towns. I think that’s been a wonderful way to incorporate technology, “ she said.
Another tricky situation for the team has been that the production in its very nature is American - which means it contains references that may just miss the mark. Badenhorst explained, however, that the creative team have worked tirelessly to make it as local as possible.
“There are a lot of references in the original script that our audiences wouldn’t quite get, so I’ve tried to identify those and I’ve changed them to something our audiences are more familiar with, without taking away the spirit of that reference or joke. I was born in the 70s, so I lived through the 80s and this means I remember that era very well.
“So that, with the help of news clippings and magazines means I knew what references the audiences wouldn’t get,” she said.
Equally as important in a production of this kind is the jazz hands and high jumps that accompany the wild and electrifying music.
Weslee Lauder, choreographer and assistant director said what drove his choreography in this case was that this is the music he grew up listening to.
“I think it’s really important to know that Rock of Ages is a bit of an anomaly in that it’s not heavy metal rock, but it’s also not Madonna pop either that was so popular in the 80s. So when I hear that music, I imagine myself in a music video of the 80s, and I think about what I would like to dance to. So I created my vocabulary from that.”
“I watched the music videos of Michael Jackson, many of which came out in the 1980s. Those were strong music videos, dancing music videos.
"I also watched Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Cindy Lauper to get inspiration, but also to see what the style of the era was. I identified what made that inherently 80s, and then threw that into the show,” Lauder explained.
He added that the dance style that can be found in the production can be classified as 80s jazz.
Rock of Ages. Picture: Supplied
The story’s characters are played by a South African cast of: Drew (Josh Ansley - The Voice SA runner-up), Sherrie (Claire Taylor), Lonny (Zak Hendrikz), Dennis Dupree (Craig Urbani), Stacee Jaxx (Andrew Webster), Regina (Natasha van der Merwe), and Justice (Mpumelelo Mayiyane).
The set list of songs will be performed by a live band and led by musical director Wessel Odendaal.
For Claire Taylor, who plays the female lead Sherrie, the appeal of Rock of Ages is the beautiful love story that the story is about, the nostalgia that it’s a chance to escape.
“It’s escapism through and through. And it’s a love story. Even if you didn’t live through the 80s, that’s a universal theme. It’s a story of dreams, hopes and sometimes losing those dreams and hopes.
"There’s a line in the show that says “sometimes the dreams you go in with are not the dreams you leave with” and that’s okay. We’re closing a year, and it’s totally different. It’s a party!” Taylor said.
* Rock of Ages will run from November 17 to December 10 at the Lyric Theatre.
Tickets are available at Computicket. Because the show contains scenes of Rock * Roll debauchery, parental guidance is advised for younger audiences.