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80s rock for a new era

École Secondaire St. Albert Catholic High School revisits iconic rock anthems in Rock of Ages: Teen Edition
The cast and crew of Rock of Ages from Ecole Secondaire St. Albert Catholic High School gather for a rehearsal before their performances at the Arden Theatre on May 16 and 17. JENNIFER KOEHLER/ Supplied

Rock of Ages: Teen Edition, a Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical, reflects the era of big bands with big egos playing big solos and showing off even bigger hair. 

In its next musical production, École Secondaire St. Albert Catholic High School welcomes you to Sunset Strip, the Hollywood epicenter where thousands of young hopefuls work with dreams of hitting the jackpot and being discovered. 

Through Rock of Ages; Teen Edition, we time-travel to the mid-eighties when rock music, acid wash jeans and acid were at their peak. It was also a time when some of America’s indelible hard rock mega-hits seized the world’s attention and morphed into anthems influencing several generations to come. 

Some of the more iconic songs in the jukebox musical include Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It; Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive; Pat Benatar’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot; Europe’s The Final Countdown, and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.  

High school teachers often select a musical depending on various factors including the crop of talent, availability of a script and cost for the rights to mount a play. 

“One of the reasons we booked Rock of Ages is because of the high interest among our students for jukebox musicals. Since Mamma Mia, there’s been a big interest. They resonate with our students. Rock of Ages is about the idea of coming of age, of friendship and living out a dream,” said director Jennifer Koehler. 

Hollywood in the mid-eighties was a time when partying raged hard. Rock flowed freely and the Sunset Strip was filled with legendary venues. Heavyweight rocker Stacee Jaxx is about to perform his last band concert before going solo and groupies are lined up for an autograph. 

In the middle of all the craziness, Drew, the club’s resident toilet cleaner, yearns to be recognized as the next big rock star almost as much as he longs for Sherrie, a small-town girl, to notice him. But their dreams start to slip away with German developers sweep into town with plans to turn the fabled strip into another trendy mall.  

The plot is pretty basic – rocker boy meets girl, she falls for a different rocker boy, he broods, they go their separate ways and reunite all the while trying to stop the strip’s gentrification. However, Koehler has the luxury of directing a youthful all-star cast sporting powerful vocal abilities. 

Brenna Hennigar, a student with a big belt and a quiet, personal charm, takes on the role of Sherrie, the quintessential small-town girl waiting to make it big. 

“Brenna has amazing vocal talent and her quiet personal demeanour can bring about Sherrie's growth. Sherrie has ambition. She wants to pursue her own dreams. She wants to make it big. She wants to make an impact,” Koehler said. 

And Darragh McManus easily slips into the role of Drew, the rocker boy whose life takes an unexpected turn. 

“He’s been in the musical program for the last two years and we’re very fortunate to have him. He’s a natural rock performer. He’s very passionate about music with his own band, and he records and produces.” 

The 37 cast members perform on a flexible set in a series of choreographed numbers that include a series of levels and four 12-foot-high palm trees. 

“But it’s the lighting that will give it the feel of a rock concert,” said Koehler. 

Rock of Ages: Teen Edition takes place at the Arden Theatre Wednesday, May 17 and Thursday, May 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15.50 at or 780-459-1542. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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