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The Cappies is a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders. Student critics vie to be published in local media outlets by attending productions at other schools and writing critical reviews.

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30Apr

Rock of Ages, Westfield High School, Chantilly, Virginia, April 27, 2019

Emma Shacochis

Oakton High School

 

Do you wanna rock? Got too much time on your hands? Then the search is over - come on and feel the noise at Westfield High School, whose electrifying production of Rock of Ages is just like paradise!

 

Rock of Ages features book by Chris D'Arienzo and a score packed with an array of rock tunes and power ballads from the works of Styx, Whitesnake, Journey, and more. The jukebox musical opened on Broadway in 2009 and, boasting over 2,000 performances, is the 29th longest-running show in Broadway history. Rock of Ages received five Tony nominations, including Best Musical, and has since been produced worldwide.

 

The time: the mid-to-late 1980s. The place: California's Sunset Strip, an "acid-washed epicenter" of rock and roll excess. When fame-seeking dreamers Drew and Sherrie meet at the legendary Dupree's Bourbon Room, they instantly fall for one another. However, when German landscapers and the alluring rocker Stacee Jaxx threaten the Strip and their relationship, will they follow their hearts to one another or pay the lonely price of fame?

 

As a city boy born and raised in South Detroit ("Michigan!"), John Henry Stamper's affable performance as wannabe rockstar Drew was superb, as he vacillated between Drew's ambition and self-doubt. Stamper's phenomenal tenor and rocker falsetto excelled throughout the demanding score, especially in the upbeat "I Wanna Rock" and devoted "Oh Sherrie".

 

Sherrie, a small town girl living in a lonely world, was brought to life by the vivacious Keeley Rogers. She portrayed the aspiring actress with initial starry-eyed awe of Hollywood; however, after facing rejection, Rogers showed Sherrie's turn to jadedness through her mesmerizingly song "Harden My Heart".

 

From their post-mugging meet-cute, Stamper and Rogers created a sweet, simmering love story between Drew and Sherrie. Their consonant voices and engaging chemistry enriched their duets of "Waiting For A Girl Like You" and "The Search Is Over".

 

Every story needs a narrator, and as dramatic conjurer Lonny, Harry Schlatter executed his fourth wall-breaking antics with aplomb. Wild, raunchy, and constantly inserting himself into scenes, Schlatter's effortless improvisation magnified his charged performance. Along with Bourbon Room owner Dennis (Josh Moore), Schlatter turned "Can't Fight This Feeling" into a hilarious yet heartfelt "bromantic" duet.

 

Alan Gutierrez-Urista showcased the moral struggle of Franz, a German redeveloper, with nonstop hilarity. Gutierrez-Urista's prancing gait and merry German accent made him a scene-stealing delight, especially when, clad in aerobics gear, he stood up to his overbearing father in "Hit Me with Your Best Shot".

 

Adorned in totally rad 1980's garb and possessing groupie-like enthusiasm, the ensemble exuberantly populated the Bourbon Room as rambunctious rock fans. The company showcased their beautiful harmonies in "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Don't Stop Believin'", and their already high energy was increased by their execution of the stylish, fist-pumping choreography (Ashley Andre, et al.).

 

Thanks to those who "built this city" (Braeden Anderson, et al.), the set - from the Strip's graffiti-covered streets to the Bourbon Room's worn interior - encapsulated the rock scene's halcyon days perfectly. The stage crew completed each scene transition with the efficiency of experienced roadies. Ray Panzer's effects, including an elevated concert stage and floor fan, helped create the atmosphere of a rock stadium. Thanks to the work of the hair and make-up team (Grace Jenkins), several cast members sported impressive wigs of teased hair and mullets.

 

The infectious charisma of Westfield's VIP cast had the raucous rockers in the audience bursting into well-deserved ovations. Crank up the amps and grab a Slurpee - you're in for nothin' but a good time at Rock of Ages!


Sam Kaynor

Thomas A. Edison High School

 

When you think of Rock ‘n' Roll, a few big names come to mind. Most people would probably say Elvis Presley, The Beatles, maybe Led Zeppelin, but after tonight, the first thing that will come to mind is Wolfgang Von Cult and the Bourbon Room.

 

Westfield Theatre's production of Rock of Ages truly brought the classic sound of 1980s rock to life, and they did it in style. Every part of the show screamed commitment, effort, and energy. The entire production came together to form an incredibly enjoyable show for everyone sitting in the auditorium. It is fair game to say that Aif music died on February 3rd, 1959, then music came back to life larger than ever on April 26th, 2019. It was a long 60 years, but they were well worth the wait.

 

Rock of Ages follows Drew (John Henry Stamper) and Sherrie (Keeley Rogers) through their journeys in Los Angeles. Drew pursues and eventually achieves his dream of becoming a rock star, while Sherrie goes from actress to waitress to exotic Venus dancer. They join together, go their own ways, believe themselves to be betrayed by the other, and then reunite in front of a midnight train as Drew stops Sherrie from leaving on the previously noted midnight train.

 

This show was full of memorable characters. The leads of the show, Drew and Sherrie had incredible chemistry and voices that made the hearts of audience members melt. The incredible comedy, energy, and eventual bromance of Lonny (Harry Schlatter) and Dennis Dupree (Josh Moore) truly made the Bourbon Room a great place to hang out while watching the story unfold. The Venus Club brought a sultry touch to the stage that made a great contrast to Sherrie's personality and character. Of course, singing isn't everything (though it is a musical, so…). Some characters did more than just sing. In particular, Franz (Alan Gutierrez-Urista) had a great singing voice, a humorous German accent, comedic timing that made him one of the most interesting characters to follow, and a tear-away suit that made for a very interesting costume choice.

 

Speaking of costumes, the costume team was headed by, surprise surprise, Alan Gutierrez-Urista. Every costume had style, made sense with the time period, and was stunning. One especially interesting costume decision was studding many pieces of clothing. The costume department even made a special studded hijab to respect one of the ensemble member's religion, which was impressive to say the least. Of course, costumes were not the only tech department that shined. The makeup was period-appropriate and was clean among all characters. The lighting was clean and almost always lit up every face onstage. The sound crew did a good job spreading mics around so that everyone could be heard, which genuinely aided in the incredible overall sound of the cast.

 

Everything about this show came together to form an incredibly enjoyable experience. Every actor and actress gave their role their all, and the overall energy made every single scene exciting to watch. It was hard to believe that this show was put on by a high school theatre company, but they crushed it. Everything that needed to be there was there. This performance of Rock of Ages truly had rock for the ages.

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