By Dan Walton
Special to the Chronicle
With Rock of Ages rolling into town, local teenagers are learning the party ways of their parents in preparation for their roles in the Broadway musical.
“The cars of the ’80s were good and the music was even better,” says Grade 12 actor Cooper Seminoff. “Guys are singing really high, girls are swinging really low.”
Seminoff has been involved with productions at Southern Okanagan Secondary School since he was in Grade 10. Of the three he’ll have taken part in, he said Rock of Ages involves the most audience interaction.
“There’s lots of fourth-wall breaking,” said Grade 11 actor Freya Ware, who’s also taking part in her third SOSS production.
“This one has way more music than acting – I think there’s 23 songs,” she said. “And they’re all ’80s iconic songs – we have to live up to the title.”
The story – based in 1987 – emulates its intro from the Journey song Don’t Stop Believin’. A small-town girl connects with a city boy from south Detroit; both are in Los Angeles pursuing cliche dreams of fame in the entertainment industry. They work together at a club on Sunset Strip called the Bourbon Room, which is where the story is set.
The venue comes under threat of closure as greedy people who hate rock ‘n roll become interested in purchasing it.
The Bourbon Room is owned by Dennis Dupree. That role has been taken on locally by Joel Desjardins, who in his final year of high school wants to “go out with a bang.”
“Dennis has this mindset of a hippie ’70s guy who’s living in the ’80s. He’s kind of got an older mindset,” said Desjardins, adding that his parents were the first to expose him to music from the 1980s.
“It’s so deeply embedded in modern society now – this play is probably going to be pretty popular across generations.”
Drama teacher Alison Podmorow said she’s been interested in directing Rock of Ages for years at SOSS, but before the script was rewritten for high school audiences, it was too vulgar for teenagers, she said.
Once an age-appropriate version was released, “I jumped all over it,” she said.
“It’s about all the things I grew up with, and these kids grew up with it too because their parents are my age and had it forced on them.”
Attending the musical will feel similar to being at a rock ‘n roll show. Turning the local stage into the Bourbon Room was a collaborative effort by many other teachers and students from SOSS.
“We have a big team that works on it,” Podmorow said. “Seeing the kids at their best working hard and achieving something – that’s pretty amazing.”
The show will be running March 1, 2, and 3 at the Frank Venables Theatre. Performances will begin at 7 p.m. each day, as well as a 2 p.m. matinee on the 3rd.
Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for grown ups. They can be purchased at the SOSS library.