On Thursday, February 23, 2023, ACT of CT will unveil its second production of the theater’s fifth season, the five-time Tony Award-nominated Broadway hit ROCK OF AGES.
Purchase tickets NOW because performance dates are already selling out!
Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes? How do the actors, creative team members, and production team work together to execute an outstanding Broadway-caliber show in just over three weeks?
Today, I quietly slipped into a working rehearsal of ROCK OF AGES. After some prompting, Artistic Director Daniel C. Levine agreed to let me share the experience with the community (thanks, Dan!) In addition, I followed a few actors and members of the production team backstage where I asked some pressing questions.
NOTE: It’s day 12 of rehearsal with only 28 minutes left!
The show is set in the 1980s, on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood… in a bar.
The show’s Director, Igor Goldin sets the scene:
We are in the Bourbon Room, a rock venue and it's going to be closed down by a corporate entity that’s coming in to bulldoze everything to create a strip mall. One of the schemes that Dennis (the owner [of the Bourbon Room] is working on in order to try to save the venue is to invite Stacee Jaxx, a huge rock star, to come in and give a final performance before he leaves his band and goes solo. Jaxx was also the very first person to perform in the Bourbon Room when it first opened. This is his first entrance back to the Bourbon Room and he is being interviewed by a reporter about his career; what it was like being part of one of the biggest groups in history and what it’s like to leave that group and become a soloist?
The rock-god Stacee Jaxx, band leader for Arsenal, played by Eric Coles, clad in a cowboy hat, a reporter eager for a good interview, and band groupies destined to save the bar where legends are made, begin singing Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”.
Just 30 seconds into this iconic song, I already want to jump out of my seat and dance! The choreography complements the lyrics; a story is unfolding and I want to know more! The impending closing of the bar, inflated egos, the lack of boundaries, and a rocker who seems ”too cool to care” are coming together to create magic on the ACT of CT stage.
I’m thinking: “We are two weeks out, tech rehearsals have not begun, there are no costumes or props yet, and I’m blown away!”
The song comes to an end, the stage manager breaks the cast, and the actors start packing up for the day. Twenty-eight minutes have passed since I’ve been observing this remarkable cast and crew working together to create theater magic, and rehearsal is over for the day.
Already??? But… I have questions!
First up is Daniel C. Levine, Artistic Director at ACT of CT.
Q: How is ACT of CT able to create such high-quality and professional theater in such a short period of time?
A: Casting is EVERYTHING in this musical. It comes down to casting the right actors. It is also incredibly important to hire creative team members who are at the top of their game and know how to work quickly and efficiently [Director: Igor Goldin, Choreographer: Sara Brians and Music Director: Jeff Cox].
They must be completely prepared before the actors arrive on the first day of rehearsal. So much happens before they even arrive. This sets the cast up for success. We work for about six months (on any given show) before rehearsal even starts.
Q: Let’s talk about the cast
Well, it’s important to hire actors who are smart, fast, smart, and completely prepared. This cast is all that. ROCK OF AGES is surprisingly a tricky show to cast. You need to cast really good rock singers who understand the style of the show, excellent actors who understand comedy, and who can dance. That’s not an easy combination to find.
Next, we talk with Eric Coles (Stacee Jaxx)
Q: You’ve been part of the Broadway Company of ROCK OF AGES and the original Toronto Company of ROCK OF AGES. What is it like to know a show so well and still be able to be open enough and flexible enough to be part of a production where the director might have a different “vision”?
A: It’s the most fun I’ve had on stage and the toughest show I’ve ever done. A great thing about doing another production of the show with people who have different perspectives is that it creates a new and interesting experience - It is a new version and we get to find those moments together. Today, we got to work on a great scene in the second act, and did something I’ve never done before in a show. There are these exciting new finds. This is a chance to do something fun and different.
Let’s hear from Director Igor Goldin who exudes passion in his role and for this performance (and it’s not his first ROCK OF AGES rodeo!)
Q: Why such passion for ROCK OF AGES? What made you want to direct the show again?
A: First of all, It’s hysterical. It has iconic 80s rock band tunes everyone knows and it somehow manages to be integrated so well into the script that it seems it was written specifically for these characters and for this musical.
And, what becomes really surprising through the silliness and ridiculousness, is the heart that emerges. That was a big thing to me that I found really surprising and unexpected.
All of a sudden, you feel your eyes welling up. You just don’t expect it in a show like this. And, it’s done with such sincerity that it just grabs you and it takes you to these places that are so joyful and hopeful.
Finally, Sara Brians, ROCK OF AGES Choreographer
Q: I know that you and ACT’s Artistic Director Daniel C. Levine have such an incredible working relationship and that Daniel hires you to choreograph many shows at ACT of CT. This is your first time with Igor Goldin. What is it like working and collaborating with a new director? Especially on a show that you have choreographed previously?
A: It’s thrilling to work with a different director because Igor has his own vision; different from what I have done in the past. It’s fun for me to step out of what I have done before and create something new.
What I love about this show is that the numbers are really story-driven. It’s fun for me to create choreography that is enhancing that story. A lot of my process is understanding what story we are trying to tell. Igor and I have a lot of conversations about how we want to tell those stories.
Rock of Ages February 23, 2023 - March 19, 2023
Special Opening Night Performance
Saturday, February 25 at 8pm - Special Opening Night performance tickets include an exclusive pre-show cocktail reception in the lobby. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and other beverages will be available to opening night guests, beginning at 7pm. There is nothing like the energy and excitement of an ACT of CT Opening Night performance!!! You’ll be amongst the show’s creative team members, reviewers, and other ACT patrons who love being “the first”!
Performance dates and times
Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
Sunday, March 5 at 7PM