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Review: Timber Lake show is a musical powerhouse for the ages

‘Rock of Ages’ delivers ’80s nostalgia with big hair, big songs and more

MOUNT CARROLL – The ’80s-rock musical “Rock of Ages,” a hit on Broadway, and in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, is playing this weekend at Timber Lake Playhouse.

Artistic Director James Beaudry and Chicago Director Brigitte Ditmars have waved their magic wand on this one, but instead of pulling a rabbit out of their hat, they pulled out all the stops. More than 30 power-packed songs satirize everything big in the ’80s – rock bands, starry-eyed love and big hair – and the cast, musicians and crew are hard-wired to perform with an energy that fits like a leather glove.

We could get lost in the electric vibes of Journey, Styx, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi and others of the era. There even is a story weaving in and out of the music: The Bourbon Room on Sunset Strip is where boy meets girl and shares future dreams. A triangle predictably develops with the slick entrance of a hip-gyrating rock star.

The show is strung together by raucous narrator Lonny Barnett, who guides us through the hysteria, sometimes part of the cast, sometimes blowing us to the back of the house with songs. Chandler Smith ( TLP’s “Big River,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “A Chorus Line”) delivers this role as if he had invented it.

There are no small roles in this roaring show. Sometimes it might appear that a melodious, romantic vocal will lull us away into a dream, only to develop into another dimension; madness of the moment. Christian Chambers (“Young Frankenstein”) as love-struck Drew Boley does that as the seeming dreamboat we dreamed of, but then outgrew.

Annalise Griswold as star-struck wannabe actress Sherrie Christian radiates, then turns fierce within a few lyrics. Griswold is one of many cream-of-the-crop performers from Baldwin Wallace University of Ohio that TLP seeks for its resident company.

Kieran McCabe as rock star Stacee Jaxx performs in his first TLP season. He is the embodiment of ego expressed through every smooth swagger, every slick move. He’s a very talented actor, especially in his Act I shower scene.

Also in his first TLP gig, choreographer Jon Martinez doesn’t miss any opportunity for satire, especially the mocking ballet couples, the slo-mo action and, of course, the swooshing big hair that must have its own moves.

Especially notable is actress/singer Shayla Brielle G. as Justice Charlier, an extraordinary talent, along with Alec Irion as Dennis Dupree, Ken Singleton as Hertz Klinemann, Luke Stewart as Franz Klinemann, and a very recognizable Olivia Kaufmann, who played Gypsy Rose Lee in TLP’s season-opening show.

Perhaps the best ensemble ever at TLP also includes Jenia Head,  Elya Bottiger, Caroline Kasay, Tyler Klingbiel, Halli Morgan and Matthew Salvatore.

Cindy Blanc directs five musicians onstage, rather than behind the scenes as usual. She rocks it under the spotlight!

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