Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre rehearsing for September performance of ‘Rock of Ages’
PLAINS TWP. — Musical theatre isn’t traditionally the realm of guitar solos and sing-a-long anthems, but for Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, this is the summer of rock.
After finishing their July run of “Disney’s Camp ROCK: The Musical,” the company is tuning up for nine performances of the hair metal love story “Rock of Ages,” beginning Sept. 9. According to male lead, Joey James, the ’80s-inspired love story is a musical for people who don’t like musicals.
“Most people who aren’t into Broadway shows will love this because it’s a concert more than anything,” said James, a Larksville resident who spent the last year with Wilkes-Barre School District teaching music. “The show is pretty much a jukebox show of every big ’80s tune; there is not one song in the show you won’t sit in your seat and be able to sing along with.”
James, 23, plays Drew Boley, a dreamer who aspires to follow in the footsteps of rock idol Stacee Jaxx. The other side of the love equation is female lead Katie Owens, who plays wannabe actress-turned-waitress Sherrie Christian. Owens said the production’s music drew her into the role.
“I heard the soundtrack about a year ago and that was kind of the music that I grew up listening to because my parents just put on the radio and played whatever was on,” said Owens, a resident of Sugar Loaf. “Without realizing it I know all the words to all those songs.”
James, Owens and the rest of the cast began rehearsing for “Rock of Ages” in June; a month before the curtain closed on “Disney’s Camp ROCK: The Musical.” According to production director Tom Franko, the early start is due to the show’s profile and complexity.
“It’s a very complicated show,” said Franko, a 28-year-old Shavertown resident whoteaches in Wilkes University’s pharmacy program when he isn’t working with Little Theatre. “It’s music that everybody knows. It’s one thing when you’re doing a show and it’s musical theater music, but if you mess up Bon Jovi or Whitesnake people are going to know.”
Franko made his directorial debut during the company’s 2015 production of another popular musical, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and September’s “Rock of Ages” is his second time sitting in the director’s chair. He said he took on the role because it offered him the chance to oversee something different and new, both for him and Little Theatre.
“I wanted something different, it was a challenge,” Franko said. “We wanted to stand out and this show was the definition of different. You go to the theater, and you expect to hear ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Les Misérables,’ and here you are hearing Poison. It’s like going to the bar and putting $20 in the jukebox and playing all of your favorite ’80s music.”
The final countdown to Little Theater production of “Rock of Ages” ends with its 8 p.m. Sept. 9 opening night. For those about to rock, tickets can be purchased at RockNEPA.com.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO
What: “Rock of Ages”
Where: Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, 537 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from Sept. 9 - Sept. 24. 3 p.m. Sundays from Sept. 11 - Sept. 25
How Much: Tickets range from $18 to $30 and can be purchased at Ticketfly.com.
More info: Use promo code “ROCK” before July 31 to save $2. Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s box office can be reached at 570-823-1875.