2016 - 2017 Season
Theatre Sarnia’s Handbill
Rock Of Ages
Theatre Sarnia: Rock of Ages Hits Home Runs On All Counts
Saturday October 22, 2016
by Brian Hay
There’s not really any way to be prepared for what happens on the stage once a performance of ‘Rock of Ages’ begins. The ingeniously designed set, which appears to be a collaboration between Cian Poore and Trevor Morris with props selected and set in place by Olivia Gogas and Rose Canino, initially conjures imagery from the Hard Rock Cafe’s of the era that preceded it. The look crafted for the musicians by Wardrobe Designer Arlene Duckert and Wig Consultant Betty Dee Black reinforces that nostalgic sensibility. What follows, promptly races off in a different direction but that’s okay; it marks the genius of Chris D’Arienzo’s work.
Cian Poore pulls off the role of the self-doubting but talented ‘Drew’ nicely and was balanced well by the performance of Olivia Gogas as the more boisterous but equally fragile ’Sherrie’. Brian Soulard and Brent Wilkinson brought depth and excellent comic timing to the surprisingly complex roles of the slippery ‘Lonny’ and the patriarch-like ‘Dennis Dupree’. It’s safe to say they shared one of the two funniest moments in the entire show.
Amanda Wolters was a delightful fireball as the radical (but not quite grey) aging hippie, ‘Regina’. Her interactions with the characters of ‘Hertz Kilnemann’ (played with authority by Dave Thomas), the Mayor (Shaun Hood), and especially Darryl Heater’s hilarious ’Franz Kilnemann’ were uproarious and moving. Michelle St. Onge-Mitchell created a very sympathetic ‘Justice’ while Ian Alexander’s ‘Ja Keith’ was magnificently over the top. Claire Ross would have stolen her scene as ‘Constance’ but for the fact that Christian Dempsey was amazing in the part of ’Stacee Jax’. Their scene together was fabulous as was the one he shared later with Olivia Gogas.
The five piece band consisting of Dan Sonier on the keyboards, David Chaulk playing rhythm guitar with Frank Seager handling the lead was anchored well by the rhythm section formed by bassist Dan Martin and drummer Dave Robillard. Their handling of the glam/metal facets of the mostly ’80’s material was delivered with panache and their transitions from electric to acoustic were flawless. Sound Man Dan Tidball did a yeoman’s job of keeping them balanced with the performers.
If one facet should be mentioned above all else however, it’s the choreography. Bethany Tiegs set the piece up so that all motion worked in tandem with the music and the lighting schemes designed by Catherine Soulliere. It was central to establishing the characters of the performers, the musical numbers and ultimately, the tone and flow of the entire production. Stage Managers Henri Canino, Rhiannon Mestancik and Rose Canino did an excellent job of keeping the action moving smoothly.
Director Karoline Lobsinger and Musical Director Denise Chaulk captured the essence of Chris D’Arienzio’s material fantastically well. The production was filled with wit, emotion and characters that became wonderfully human. The pacing was brisk but unhurried and the performances from her cast were exceptional. The singing from individuals was very strong and the vocal work from the ensembles was often stunning. Best of all, the production paid tribute the music and the era it stemmed from in ways that “had ‘em rolling in the aisles” while expressing the deepest love for it. That’s no small accomplishment.
‘Rock of Ages’ is a production that should play to full houses for its entire run. The first night had close to that and the reaction of the audience — overjoyed to say the least — suggests that it will. People should get their tickets quickly because they’ll soon be the hottest ones in town.
This performance took place at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia Ontario on Friday October 21, 2016. The article was written to convey impressions of what it was like to be at the show.