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Rock of Ages hits the Bradley Playhouse stage for an “80s Rock Party”

By  Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

To the common population, poison is a toxic chemical, warrant, a court order, and extreme, a word that implies excess.

To those of us who grew up in the 1980s (a select group that happens to be anything but common) those words mean something more. They are the names of rock bands or, more specifically, hair bands, and their music marks an egotistical decade of albums that soared higher than David Lee Roth’s stage jumps.

The Baby Boomers may have had the Beatles, and the Generation Xers, the xxxx  but neither group had what we grew up with in the Eighties; that is, music driven by MTV, big guitars, and even bigger hair. Our textacious Millennials may have new cell phone apps but they don’t have albums that “went platinum” or songs about Jack and Diane.

“Day time, night time, any time, things go better with rock” and if you grew up in the 80s you know what I’m talking about. We were in a category of our own, gender neutral about Aqua Net hairspray because stiff-high bangs looked good on everyone back then.

Whether you are a product of the 80s, a proud parent of one, or a millennial Pandora pal with a Pat Benatar playlist, Rock of Ages, produced by Putnam’s Bradley Playhouse, is sure to promise you “nothin’ but a good time” in a theater that’s been at it for thirty years. The show will span the weekends of April 20 through May 6 (Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm).

“It’s basically an 80s rock party,” said Director Carl Mercier. “It’s everything you loved about growing up in the 80s with every hit you can remember. It’s the soundtrack of our youth.”

The Rock of Ages cast, all twenty-three of whom auditioned for roles amongst an original group of fifty who tried out, have a story to tell and more than a few songs to sing. Written by Christopher D-Arienzo and orchestrated by Ethan Popp, Rock of Ages is a classic ‘boy meets girl” tale of romantic dreams and aspirations requisitioned by something even better—finding each other.

“The show is set in a popular rock and roll bar in L.A,” said Mercier, a former theater major at Yukon University who began his career as a performer before the desire to direct overtook him. Since 1989, Mercier has directed more than 80 plays while, also, managing technical theater work at Connecticut’s Pomfret School. He currently works at Eagle Hill School, Hardwick, where he builds sound and sets for the crew.

The Rock of Ages storyline supports a prominent musical theme. “In the late 80s investors want to close the bar and build condos,” Mercier went on. “The rock-n-rollers want to keep the bar going and invite a popular band to come forward and keep it open for one last concert.”

Lead roles, played by Paul Lucenti and Elizabeth Silvia, who play Drew and Sherrie, come to the Bradley Theater Playhouse with a passion for the 80s and a love for acting. “I’ve always wanted to be a rock star,” said Lucenti, who identifies with his character and admits, “I’ve always been torn between singing and acting. It’s something I plan to pursue.”

Lucenti’s lead rocker role has given the Woodstock-born-and-raised actor (whose favorite song to sing happens to be “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister) a chance to do both. “I hope people will love the show as much as we enjoy performing it and that they will identify with the music. There’s a simple story built around a creative theme, which works well. Sometimes simple is just better and more fun.”

Rock of Ages, which premiered as a Broadway musical on July 27, 2005, will feature an added caveat for a group willing to let their hair down and have a bit of fun. The directors invite them to participate in a 45-minute Dance Pre-Show featuring an 80s DJ and costume contest each night.  “If you are feeling it, come in your best 80’s attire,” said Mercier.

Co-director Bill Corriveau, equally as passionate about the show, has been involved in theater for thirty years. He began working with the Bradley Playhouse team in 1991 and, additionally, has a background in information technology (IT), a career that has become inexplicably entwined with his drama work. Raised in a family of artists, his brother turned him onto national tours. Bill claims to have loved acting since the age of six, when he first saw the film Herby Love Bug. Though life, marriage, and and the quest to earn money has led him along different paths, an opportunity to direct drama sort of “fell on his lap” at Killingly High School, in Connecticut.

“My work in theater helped me to get the IT job which led to the Killingly Drama Director job,” he said of the unexpected twists his life has taken to lead him back to his first love. “Artistry has always been in my family. I’ve always known I was meant to do something artistic.”  

Corriveau first saw Rock of Ages with his wife while in New York a few years back and fell in love with the show. Hence, when the opportunity arose over one year ago to direct it at Putnam’s Bradley Playhouse, he hopped aboard. “The audience can expect a fun night out. It’s just a great show,” he said.

Putnam’s Bradley Playhouse brings forth talents from Connecticut and surrounding states. The Rock of Ages cast is (collectively) from East Providence, Norwich, Windham, Worcester, Spencer, and Putnam, amongst numerous other towns. They are ready to make some noise, inspire an 80s charged audience and, most definitely—they are ready to rock.

Bring your egos, headbands, and favorite 80s memorabilia to downtown Putnam’s Bradley Playhouse – 30 Front Street (Rt 44) -  from April 20 through May 6.  Rock of Ages will feature the arena rock hits of Pat Benatar, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Twisted Sister, and Foreigner.

Don’t miss the opportunity to revisit your youth, or experience a slice of someone else’s, during a show that promises to be timeless, fun, and inspirational. All ages are welcome. The show is intended for mature audiences (and those who just want to rock).

All seats are reserved. Order your tickets online at  Charge by phone:  860-928-7887. Or visit the box office. Tickets are also available at the door.