Ziegfeld Theater Company will rock Park City with ‘Rock of Ages’
Ogden’s Ziegfeld Theater Company is on a mission to rock.
It opened Chris D’Arienzo’s jukebox musical “Rock of Ages” Friday at the Egyptian Theatre and is looking forward to the remaining four-weekend run, said Ziegfeld’s Music Director Rick Rea.
“Since Park City has an influx of people coming in to enjoy the wonderful summer weather, we felt it was a great time to run a show for a while,” Rea said during a Park Record interview. “We did four weekends in Park City last year with ‘West Side Story,’ and we want to do the same for ‘Rock of Ages.’“ “Rock of Ages” tells the story of small-town girl Sherrie and city-boy Drew who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through ‘80s hits by Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Joan Jett, Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Styx, Twisted Sister and Whitesnake, to name a few.
The musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor, Best Direction and Best Sound Design.
Rea said the production’s charm is the music.
“Whether someone was a teenager or an adult in the 1980s, the music resonates with so many generations,” he said. “I was born in 1987, so I got the music secondhand. But it was the music I grew up with, even though I didn’t have that much good music in the ‘90s.” Ziegfeld Theater Company has had its eye on “Rock of Ages” for a few years.
“It was a huge success in New York City and is still a success in Vegas,” Rea said. “We love doing the classic Broadway musicals, but it’s also so fun to throw these mega-hits and contemporary musicals into our season. We wanted to bring this electric show to Utah.” Also, Rea knows Park City has a strong appreciation for classic rock.
“It was a perfect fit for our audiences in Ogden and Park City,” he said. “So we needed to make it happen.” As music director, Rea knew there was a lot at stake because the songs were hits before they were made into a musical.
“This is almost like a rock pageant,” he said. “It is a celebration of this music through this comedic, brilliant script. So the challenge is making sure you capture the sound of this era so people feel the nostalgia.” When he first started working on the show, Rea wanted the songs to sound close to the originals.
“I quickly realized that we could capture the spirit of these songs and bands while still performing in our own sound,” he said. “While we didn’t do anything radical with the music, I did put together a band that has some incredible talent that play with a unique approach.
“Things usually go wrong when you try to replicate something, because everyone has their own voice,” Rea said. “On the other side of the extreme, you can’t take a part of a show, because you will lose what was true about it.”
So, one approach is playing some of the songs in a different tempo.
“While those are different than what you hear on the radio, we were able to still capture the authentic feel of the songs,” Rea said. “You have to honor the writing and you have to honor the audience, but I found that when you give the audience something new, everyone wins. But there is a balancing act you have to do.”
Rea also knew that “Rock of Ages” should be a feast for the eyes and ears. That’s why he hired director Trent Cox.
“Trent has an extreme lifelong passion for WWE wrestling and the one reason why I hired him for the show was because WrestleMania is a spectacle of a show,” Rea said. “I told Trent that I wanted his love for this spectacle coming into the production.”
Cox’s vision led to the casting of Natalie Nichols as Sherrie and Jake Holt as Drew.
“These two roles carry the show and they have a comedic relationship that requires unique talents,” Rea said.
For example, Sherrie finds that she isn’t able to make things work as an actress, so she finds work as an exotic dancer.
“It so happens that Natalie had been training for the last few years in pole fitness and teaches classes,” Rea said. “She is an incredible talent and was able to bring that to the table.”
On the other hand, Holt is a revered comedic actor.
“He is especially great when playing modern characters,” Rea said. “He brings a certain timing that just spoke to us.” While there are musical highlights throughout the show, Rea said there are three scenes that spoke to him.
“There is a short segment in act one with a character named Waitress No. 1, who works with Sherrie through a difficult time,” he said. “Waitress No. 1 belts the [Mr. Big] song ‘To Be With You’ and she has this incredible voice and charming quality that really brings it home.”
Another favorite takes place when Dennis, the owner of the bar where most of the musical is set, and Lonny, who is his sound guy and the narrator of the show, sing REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
“This is probably the biggest crowd-pleasing moment that we have ever done,” Rea said. “This is one of those moments that people will remember, and all of these scenes put these songs in a whole new context.” Still, Rea believes the best segment of the show involves Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”
“I don’t want to spoil anything about that, but I want the audience to look for it,” Rea said.
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present the Ziegfeld Theater Company’s production of the musical “Rock of Ages” this weekend through July 3 and will continue the run July 7-10, July 14-17 and July 21-24. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. Sunday performances start at 6 p.m. Tickets for the Thursday concerts range from $35 to $55 and Tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances range from $39 to $65. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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