Will Drew & Sherrie realize their dreams and find true love with each other? Will the Bourbon Club survive? Will the 80s live again? Find out by watching Rock of Ages currently playing at the Waiting Room Lounge under the auspices of Rave On Productions.
Rave On’s sophomore season of The Omaha Series picks up right where the freshman season left off with another rollicking, rocking extravaganza that will have you hoppin’ and boppin’ in your seats before the night is through. If you’re an aspiring actor, then my assignment to you is to watch this show as this is what acting is all about. Each and every performer is totally committed to her or his role and tosses caution to the wind which will cause you to lose yourself in the roller coaster ride of this production.
You don’t have to be a child of the 80s to enjoy this show, but it certainly helps. Mullets, cutoffs, jean shorts, big hair, lightsabers, and a telephone so big and heavy that I could use it to lay out a rhino were just some of the many throwbacks prevalent in the show. Toss in a score featuring some of the hottest acts of the 80s including Styx, David Lee Roth, Poison, Pat Benatar, Jefferson Starship, Steve Perry, and Bon Jovi and people of my era will rocket back to a more carefree era where we spun these records for hours on end.
Kimberly Faith Hickman pulls double duty as director and choreographer and excels in both categories. As director, she keeps the pace brisk and the energy high. She balances the multiple storylines well and has coached her actors to tight performances with colorful characters who can be incredibly realistic or amusingly over the top. Her staging was a work of art and utilized the entire lounge allowing multiple moments to play out simultaneously. As choreographer, she provides some really entertaining numbers from an 80s exercise rendition of “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” to lap dances at a gentleman’s club to a jamming Gospel choir to a jazzy dance segment in “Shadows of the Night”.
The ensemble cast more than holds up their end of the bargain in this show. Each and every one always remained in character even when off stage and not a direct part of the action. Kimberly Faith Hickman and Carly Frolio give a master class in how to be present in a scene as waitresses and exotic dancers. Jonathan Berger generates some laughs as the constantly stoned hippie owner of the Bourbon Club. Evelyn Hill is a scream as the former city planner bound and determined to save the Bourbon Club from destruction at all costs. Aaron Slagle is delightfully over the top as Franz, an effeminate German hoping to open a candy store. Eric Perlstein matches Slagle step for step as his ruthless businessman father obsessed with wiping out the “sex, drugs, and rock n roll” lifestyle. Brittney Thompson is motherly as the kindly owner of the gentleman’s club who once had dreams of disco glory. Billy McGuigan is a self-absorbed, arrogant prick of a rock star as the obnoxious Stacee Jaxx.
Jesse White never fails to disappoint on stage and adds another A+ performance to his legacy. As Drew Boley, White projects the right amount of youthful exuberance needed for a hungry young man trying to make it as a rock star. He is believably shy in the early stages of new love with Sherrie and his disappointment and frustration when he feels betrayed by her are spot on. White can sing a song like few others and can be incredibly tender such as when he’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You” or match Steve Perry belt for belt on “Oh, Sherrie”.
Courtney Cairncross is perfection as Sherrie Christian. I completely bought into her as the bright-eyed, innocent Kansas girl who was certain she could make it as an actress in Hollywood. That innocence is critical to the role as it gives her a height to fall from (which she does so beautifully) due to the struggles she endures trying to make it as an actress along with the personal disappointments she experiences in love and life. And what a pretty voice! She can capture a wide range of emotion such as confusion when learning how to dance sexy while singing “Any Way You Want It” or boiling lividity when giving Stacee Jaxx a lap dance in “I Hate Myself for Loving You”.
Ryan McGuigan is one of the most believable and natural actors who has ever graced a stage. As Lonny Barnett, McGuigan is both the show’s narrator as well as a character in the show. So extemporaneous is his delivery that I sometimes wondered if his dialogue was scripted or improv. This man knows no fear as he boldly runs around the lounge in his briefs in a drugged-up stupor or cheerfully relates the woes of the other characters as he revels in the fact that he’s fully aware he’s in a work of fiction. And that dynamite raw tenor of his will have you enraptured as he outPerrys Steve Perry in “Don’t Stop Believin’” and rocks out in “Cum On Feel the Noize”.
Matthew McGuigan’s gift for musical direction is in rare form as he and his band rock the house with the night’s numbers and I was especially impressed with how they melded and transitioned the songs in the various medleys. Ben Stratton’s lights not only made me feel like I was in a constant rock concert, but were also used well comedically in a slow-motion lightsaber duel. Carly Frolio’s costumes will yank you into the 80s with shredded shirts, short jean shorts, and bandanas. Kate Whitecotton’s set has the feel of a rock n roll bar with a screen projecting images to transport you out of the Bourbon Club and into other locales.
It’s a freeing night of theatre that will chase your stresses away. Sit down, have a cold one, and indulge in 80s excess with Rock of Ages.
Rock of Ages plays at the Waiting Room Lounge through April 16. Remaining showtimes are at 7:30pm Fri-Sat. General admission tickets are still available for $35 and can be purchased at https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4730764/rave-on-productions-presentsrock-of-ages-omaha-the-waiting-room. Due to mature themes and language, the show is not suitable for children. The Waiting Room Lounge is located at 6212 Maple St in Omaha, NE.
Photos Provided by Rave On Productions