Rock of Ages – 2023 HCP

Oh, Sherrie, Don’t Stop Believin’

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

Rock of Ages is proving to be popular at Huron Country Playhouse, with sell-out previews and an enthusiastic full audience on opening night. Some people sported rock n’ roll t-shirts on opening night, ready to relive the 1980s when the music was fresh and not “classic.” But this jukebox musical is not for everyone.

It’s the bromidic boy-meets-girl story and the people versus the developer story. It’s full of loud rock ‘n roll. And it’s raunchy. Please make sure you are okay with that before you go see Rock of Ages. As a reviewer, I wonder what the chances are that I’d be seated beside the only miserable theatre-goer.  He let everyone around him know how disgruntled he was, and resorted to using his phone in the second act. His companion wasn’t much better. Fortunately, the majority of the people seemed to enjoy themselves, participating with enthusiastic clapping, whistling and a quick-to-their-feet standing ovation. I was part of that majority, happily singing along to 1980s rock in the car on the way home!

The humour makes this show quick-paced and thoroughly entertaining. The acting is top-notch, and the band is phenomenal. It’s great to see the real musicians on their own little stage, expertly playing the familiar guitar riffs and rock medleys. Also phenomenal are the voices of the male leads. Kale Penny, Aaron Walpole, and Teddy Moynihan expertly belt out the tunes. The women don’t quite have the grit behind their voices, but they are good and very strong in their characters.

Kale Penny reprises his role as the lovesick and aspiring rock god, Drew. Aaron Walpole returns as Lonny, who quickly becomes one of the favourite characters of the show, breaking the fourth wall and expertly swinging his nunchucks. Lonny reminds us not to take anything too seriously. Teddy Moynihan is reminiscent of Nigel from This is Spinal Tap in his role as Stacee Jaxx, rocker and competing love interest. Mark Harapiak returns as Dennis Dupree, owner of the Bourbon Room, a Hollywood club where rock dreams are made. Ashley En-fu Matthews rocks it as Sherrie, the small-town girl (in a lonely world) of the boy-meets-girl duo. And let’s not forget the German element: familiar faces Lee McDougall and Tyler Pearse are the father and his campy son, developers ready to destroy the rock ‘n roll feel of the neighbourhood. Lauren Bowler kills it as the hippie city planner who does everything she can to stop the destruction. The story would be incomplete without the requisite 1980’s style strip club and Justice Charlier, who steers Sherrie the wrong way.

Everything about the production is top-notch. Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, directs this one himself. The set is realistic and evokes that club feel, with a video screen and a second level above the main action, giving you plenty of visuals. The music is expertly performed and clear, and the choreography is eighties-sexy, as are the costumes.

If you are a rock music fan and want to be entertained but not have to think too hard, dig your rock t-shirt out of the back of your closet or dress up – your choice – and go see Rock of Ages. The song list includes “Cum on Feel the Noize”, “Sister Christian”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “We Built This City”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Every Rose has its Thorn”, “Oh, Sherrie”, “Don’t Stop Believin’” and more. If you are not a fan of the music or you are easily offended, please don’t go. The seats are going to sell regardless.

Rock of Ages continues until September 3rd at Huron Country Playhouse, Mainstage Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000, Toll-Free at 1-855-372-9866, or by checking for availability.

Photo: Kale Penny, Dennis Dupree, and Aaron Walpole.  Photo by Drayton Entertainment.

Rock of Ages
Book by Chris D’Arienzo
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Choreography by Lisa Stevens
Musical Director – Konrad Pluta
Performed by Ashley En-fu Matthews, Kale Penny, Aaron Walpole, Teddy Moynihan, Mark Harapiak, Lauren Bowler, Terry Burrell, et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Mainstage, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 9 to September 3, 2023
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes


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