GREENFIELD - Whitnall High School students will take the stage, and the audience, back to the 1980s with their spring musical "Rock of Ages," which opens April 21.
"Rock of Ages," originally a Broadway musical that ran from 2009-2015, is a jukebox musical filled with popular rock songs of the 1980s. The high school version of the show has been adjusted slightly from the original.
Director Tom Weissgerber said he has been wanting to put on this show for the past three years, and was thrilled when Whitnall was finally able to get the rights to perform it.
"It's an ’80s show but it's such a modern, different type of musical – it's not your classical musical," explained Weissgerber. "It gives the students that don't feel like they sing your typical standard musical a chance to show off their rock band qualities."
Familiar favorites like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Don't Stop Believin'," and "Not Gonna Take It" lead the audience through the storyline that follows Drew Boley, played by Jacob LeFluer.
The story takes place in the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles, where rock star Stacee Jaxx (Matt Peplinksi) performs. Hoping to make it big, Drew, a "city boy born and raised in south Detroit," comes onto the scene and meets "small town girl" and aspiring star Sherrie Christian (Tess Polacheck). The situation quickly gets complicated, however, when developers come in looking to turn the famed Strip into just a strip mall.
With 23 students on the stage, and even more working backstage, the show will be quite the jam session. It will even feature a band of five high school students, known as Downfall, who will perform live.
"There's all these things happening – so many elements happening all at the same time from a rock band playing, to a musical number happening, to a scene that engages quite a bit of emotion," Weissgerber said.
All these elements make it one of the most difficult shows Weissgerber has ever directed and a challenge for the students.
However, Weissgerber says the challenge has paid off.
"The students have stepped up unbelievably," Weissgerber said.
Like '80s concert
In addition to everything happening on stage, Weissgerber said cast and crew are also hoping to engage the audience in the show for an authentic 1980s-concert feel.
Audience members will also be invited to get involved by waving flashlights or their lit cellphones, mimicking what concert-goers sometimes did with cigarette lighters decades ago. (Flashlights will be available for sale before the show.)
In short, the show is perfect for anyone who loves ’80s music, or anyone who just wants to rock.
"They say in the show 'What is it that you want more than anything in the world?' to a young performer in L.A. on the Sunset Strip," Wiessgerber said. "And he says, 'More than anything in the world that I wanna do is I wanna rock.' So, I would say if you wanna rock, you should come check out this performance."
If you go
What: "Rock of Ages" musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, April 21, 22, 28 and 29. and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 23 and 30.
Where: Whitnall High School, 5000 S 116th St.