Rock and comedy make for a glam-metal duet as Cygnet Theatre gets set to stage ‘Ages’


If you can’t live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, at least you can belly up to the rock ‘n’ roll bar — the same one that the guitar-slingers and glam-metal singers of “Rock of Ages” preside over.

The musical, after all, is set at a joint called the Bourbon Room, and Cygnet Theatre’s production of the satirical, rock-saturated Broadway show will boast a working version of the bar where patrons can pop onstage to grab a drink before the performance and at intermission.

That’s part and parcel of the real-and-raw feel this Southern California regional premiere of the show is going for, say lead actors Megan Carmitchel and Rory Gilbert. And it apparently extends to the comportment of the crowd.

“We’re expecting some rowdiness,” as Carmitchel puts it. “But I think (the show) calls for it.”

To which Gilbert adds: “Yeah, the floor is not supposed to be not sticky afterward. I don’t want to clean it up, but I think it’s that kind of show.”

As spoofy and self-referential as “Rock of Ages” can be — at one point in the show, Gilbert’s character is handed a copy of the musical’s actual program and told to blame writer Chris D’Arienzo for his life troubles — the two actors say the fervency of the young dreamers they play has to be taken seriously for it all to work.

“It’s so easy to fall into the trap of, ‘These ‘80s rock songs are so much fun and there’s so much energy,’” Carmitchel says of the piece, which Cygnet artistic chief Sean Murray is directing. “But (Murray) has really had us focus on the heart of these characters. They all really have dreams and wants.”

“Rock of Ages” — which had a six-year Broadway run and spawned a Tom Cruise movie — revolves around Sherrie Christian (Carmitchel), a Kansas girl who has made her way to L.A. with hopes of Hollywood glory, and Drew Boley (Gilbert), an aspiring rocker working as a busboy at the Bourbon Room.

(See our 2012 review of the original Broadway touring production of “Rock of Ages”)

Drew pines for Sherrie to the likes of such tunes as (obviously) Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” and (even more obviously) Journey singer Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie.” But their love is jeopardized by the arrival of the pompous rock superstar Stacee Jaxx, and the threatened demolition of the Bourbon Room.

Will Drew and Sherrie find a way back to each other again? Three words: Don’t stop believin’.

Also, don’t stop believin’ that being in “Rock of Ages” is a lot of hard work.

Gilbert, a San Diego newcomer who also played Drew in a South Carolina production two years ago, says he’s trying to limit even talking to people in order to preserve his voice.

And Carmitchel, an in-demand San Diego actor who’s doing her third Cygnet show, started prepping to play Sherrie back in January, “just because the vocals in this show are so demanding.”

Plus, “all the characters dance in this show,” she says. “There’s nobody who just ‘parks and barks.’ We’re all dancing, we’re all moving. It’s so high-energy.

“From the top of the show, it’s shot out of a cannon. And it’s so cool to see everyone bringing 100 percent to the table.”

Did you know?

“Rock of Ages” is named for a Def Leppard hit, but the band refused to allow the song’s use in the Broadway production. Now, though, the Leppard is changing its tune (and we’re mixing our metaphors). The band has allowed the just-opened off-Broadway revival to include the title number. As lead singer Joe Elliott told the New York Times: “People are going to go, ‘Ah, it’s good enough for you now but it wasn’t then.’ Well, yeah. That’s exactly right.”

Hot tracks

A “Rock of Ages” song sampler:

“We Built This City,” Jefferson Starship

“Cum On Feel the Noize,” Quiet Riot

“I Hate Myself for Loving You,” Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

“Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Whitesnake

“The Search is Over,” Survivor

“Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey

‘Rock of Ages’

When: Previews begin July 2. Opens July 6. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Aug. 25.

Where: Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town.

Tickets: $35-$65 (discounts available)

Phone: (619) 337-1525