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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reston's 'Rock of Ages' rocks all night

The cast of Rock of Ages by the Reston Community Players/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Run and get tickets to this fantastic show by the Reston Community Players on stage at the Reston Community Center.

It is so much fun, I loved, loved, loved it and would see Rock of Ages again. It's like a great book which you don't want to end. How many plays can you say that about?

From the get-go, Rock leaps from the runway and soars into the night sky. If you like 80s music or even if you don't, or can't remember any (I heard two 70-something gents say they were unfamiliar with the tunes, but they liked what they saw), this is a show you won't forget. (Or doze through.)

Were my dad still around (age 102 this month), he would have wanted to see it every night. (Read on.) Except for children and prudes, it's appropriate for all ages.

Ben Peter is woman killer and rock star Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages by the Reston Community Players/photo by Traci J. Brooks

Besides great music by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe and others, Rock is loaded with lots of simulated sex, raunchy moves (!), strippers' apparel and adult language.

A quintet of super-talented musicians assembled just for the show by Director Joshua Redford play from center stage throughout the performance, but their presence does not dominate, and their figures blend nicely in the background.

The standout in this band crowd is the electric guitarist, Noah Dail, who reminded me of Slash and was chosen by Mr. Redford on a tip, he told me at the after-party.

Alone, Mr. Dail (age 17) is a show unto himself, but ROA has a plot beyond the presentation of Mr. Dail's fantastic guitar-playing abilities.

It's "glam metal" 80s music set to a romance (natch, says the energetic and persuasive narrator, Brett Harwood as Lonny Barnett) between a gal (Claire O'Brien Jeffrey who is Sherrie) on a journey to acting stardom in Hollywood (ho hum), but a few detours crop up along the way, like a new boyfriend (Russell Silber is Drew Boley), a new "career," and a hot rock star sure to grab (ahem) any gal's attention. (Ben Peter is Stacee Jaxx whose role and performance I absolutely adored.)

The antagonists are Brent Stone and Richard Farella, who play the greedy developer and son, Hertz and Franz, seeking to disrupt real estate and the bar business. Both are realistic, and Franz almost brings down the house when he "changes." ("I'm not gay; I'm just German.")

The best vocalists IMO were Joey Olson who is Dennis Dupree, the angelic owner of the bar, and Bruni Herring, the madam of the house, whose stage name here is Justice. (Right.)

Carole Steele, the costume designer, expertly dresses the performers in 80s garb, and hair and makeup designers, Kat Brais and Molly Hicks Larson, deserve equal praise.

Director Redford's smarts show with his choice of professional pole dancers (Tara Leigh Willis and Erin Reese) whose dancing is hard to escape and sometimes detracts from the script with their twists, turns, and upside-down antics to make it look, oh, so easy. (Sure.)

The setting (by Dan Widerski) is mostly in a bar, and stale beer smells seem to waft through the hall, giving you a taste of how the production encapsulates the audience.  

The scenery can be a little too cluttered with all the actors, musicians, and action, but its transitions to a bathroom (a riotous scene), dock, house of ill repute, and other places smoothly convey.

Rock has something for everyone: music, heteros, homos, an infusion of religion for those in need, and, of course, dancing (by Chris Dore who also acts and with Farella, is the projection designer).

Thank goodness, there were no audience sing-alongs on opening night.

One mistake we made was passing up the lighters the ushers offer before show time. Take them! You'll be glad you did. A nice touch.

But decline the ear plugs which are not needed since the music will not blast you off your Rocker (but the show just might).

No wonder it's tied with Man of La Mancha for being Broadway's 28th longest running show. (Rock played there from 2009 to 2015.)

The book is by Chris D’Arienzo.

Other cast and crew members are Erich DiCenzo, Kristin Renee Reeves, Evie Korovesis, Kendall Mostafavi, and Philip Smith-Cobbs, Jenny Girardi, and Melrose Pyne.

Matt Jeffrey is music director and also plays the keyboard, Jocelyn Steiner, is the producer,

Colleen Stock, stage manager; Sara Birkhead, technical director; Jan Claar, lighting; Seth Sacher, sound; Mary Jo Ford, properties; Jennifer Lambert, set decoration; and Cathy Rieder, set painting.

Other musicians are David Smigielski, guitarist; Christopher Willett, bass; and on drums, Matt Robotham.

Thank you to the Arts Council of Fairfax County for partial funding.


Ages: Not recommended for those under age 15.

Who: Reston Community Players

What: Rock of Ages

When: 2 p.m., March 19 and 26, 2017, and 8 p.m., March 24-25, March 31 and April 1.

Where: Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA 20191

How much: $25, adults; $21, students and seniors

Tickets: Buy online, at the box office, or call 703-476-4500 and press 3 for 24-hour ticket orders.

Language: A few F-bombs and more dirty slang drop every now and then.

Attention: Strobe lights and haze are used.

Duration: A little over two hours with one 20 minute intermission.

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