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Teens to take stage in ‘Rock of Ages’ musical

The cast of “Rock of Ages” will take the stage beginning Oct. 25 at Historic Iao Theater. This abbreviated teen adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway rock musical features the hits of Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and many more hard rock standards. Cast is listed from left to right: Mikaela Lagasca, Rachel Robinson, Max Huston (kneeling), Jeremiah “J.J.” Hipp, Georgia Eyerman (kneeling), Maggie McManus, Rylynn Guthrie, Jaimie Tirona (kneeling), Molly Oberg, Emily McCargar, Bailey Miller (seated), Sammy Webb (kneeling), Sophia Gallegos, Sylvie Goodblatt, Jacqueline Grimes (kneeling), Sage Campbell, Anuhea Hale (kneeling), Christina Luautu, Siena Schwartz (kneeling), Amber Seelig and Sara Oberg. JACK GRACE photo

Late fall is one of the busiest times of the year for the performing arts on Maui, and more than a dozen theatrical productions are scheduled over the next six weeks. A significant portion of the crowded early season offerings are the first youth theater plays and musicals of 2019-20.

Well-spaced this season, audiences will have the luxury of being able to attend all four teen productions over consecutive weekends, beginning with “Rock of Ages,” which opens at the Historic Iao Theater next weekend.

This abbreviated teen adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway rock musical features the hits of Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and many more hard rock standards.

The adult stage version centered around the wild Bourbon Room bar, and the Hollywood sex, drugs and rock and roll world of the 1980s. “I got to see this show done in Las Vegas and just loved it,” said Dejah Padon, director of the local production. “When I saw that they had a junior version, I knew that I had to introduce this show to the teens. I also wanted them to experience another musical genre than the traditional stuff we usually do,” she expressed.

The squeaky-clean revision, narrated in the present by Anuhea Hale, tells the tale of a city boy, Drew Boley (Sammy Webb), and a small-town girl Sherrie Christian (Bailey Miller), who have come to Hollywood to make their showbiz dreams come true. The pair meet while working for Denise Dupree (Jacqueline Grimes) at her legendary “temple of rock-n-roll,” the Dupree Room. Drew and Sherrie receive support and encouragement from fellow dreamer, Justice (Amber Seelig). Just as a few breaks start to come for Sherrie and Drew, two German developers (Siena Schwartz and Max Houston) enter the picture with their plans to tear down the Dupree Room and build a Sunset Strip mall. A city planner, Regina (Georgia Iyerman) leads the Hollywood citizens and supporters of LA’s rock culture in protest, and rocker Stacee Jaxx (Jerimiah “J.J.” Hipp), the lead singer of Arsenal, agrees to perform the last concert at the Dupree Room. Additional conflict arises when the famous rocker distracts Sherrie from her original hopes and plans, as the Dupree Room gang battle save the Strip and make all their dreams come true.

Maui Stars OnStage includes performances by Lily O Lei (from left), Sadie Vine, Miss F-Bomb and Bourbon Layne of Cabaret and Cocktails. The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater. BRETT WULFSON photo

I asked Padon if she was about the same age as her cast is now when the songs from “Rock of Ages” were topping the charts in the ’80s. “Yes, but at the younger end — a freshman in high school. This show has been so much fun. The music, costumes, choreography have been a wonderful journey back in time,” she replied. I asked if she had a favorite song. “All the numbers are so much fun, it is hard to choose but ‘Harden My Heart’ and ‘Shadows of the Night’ gives me goosebumps every time we run it.”

As a child, Padon watched her mother and grandfather in performance at the Iao Theater. She took youth theater classes with Maui Youth Theater and performed regularly as a teenager with with the Baldwin Theater Guild and Maui Community Theater before moving on to a professional dance career in Las Vegas. Since returning home she has been active with both Maui OnStage Youth Theater and at Baldwin High School.

Padon shared the importance of theater programs for Maui teens. “Having grown up at the Iao theater I cannot express how important this program is for our island’s youth. It is a safe place for the youth to express and celebrate who they are. Teen theater is important for expression and self-learning. These are the years that experiences make a huge impact of what direction they decide to take in life. I have been honored to be a witness of their growth of one-self and community over the years and am proud of who they are becoming,” she expressed.

I wondered if the Maui teens were familiar with these 30-plus-year-old songs. “The teens are enjoying the show and most of them already knew the tunes, though they had to ask what some of the lyrics meant. As we rehearsed one of our songs, I realized all these years I sang a song not knowing what it truly meant,” Padon shared. ” ‘Be With You’ written by David Grahame and Eric Martin has lyrics about waiting for the lines of greens and blues. I always thought it referred to the subway or bus lines to get to someone that you love, but when I researched it, it was about the emotions you go through hoping someone feels the same way, green for jealousy and blue for depression. You learn something every day. I am also thrilled that the teens are really trying to understand what they are singing,” she explained.

* Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “Rock of Ages,” Book by Chris D’Arienzo, musical arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, directed by Dejah Padon, choreographed by Rachel Lockhart, and under the musical direction of Kristen D. F. Otterson. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 25 through 27 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $12 adults, $6 children. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

THIS WEEK

Roseox Productions and ProArts present the Hawaii premier of “Evil Dead the Musical,” book, music and lyrics by George Reinblatt, directed by Kalani Whitford, under the musical direction of Marti Kluth. The campy comedic musical takes all the elements of the “Evil Dead” films, “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and “Army of Darkness,” combining them in what its creators call, “One of the craziest, funniest, and bloodiest theatrical experiences of all time.” The local production stars Don Carlson, Laura Lee Cole, Felicia Chernicki-Wulf, Lia De Souza, Mikel Gosney, Derek Nakagawa, William Nill, Jim Oxborrow, Jake Pecaut, Patty Lee Sylva and includes a faux blood splash zone for audiences. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, starting Friday, Oct. 18 through Nov. 3 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. There will be two performances at 7 and 10 p.m. on Halloween. Tickets are $30, and $40 for “splash zone” seating. “Evil Dead the Musical” is restricted to audiences age 18 and over due to strong adult content. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

Maui OnStage presents “Maui Stars OnStage.” This cabaret style evening of entertainment stars many Maui’s favorite theater and music artists such as The Hula Honeys, The Kit Kat Club, Cabaret and Cocktails, Dorothy Betts, Jim Price, Casey Hughes, Sara Jelley, Marsi Smith, Karen Stavash, Brett Wulfson, Dale Button, Charlie Dungans, Joey Schumacher, Jason Strahn, Francis Taua, a special appearance by the Maui OnStage cast of  “Rock of Ages,” and emcee Kristi Scott. All proceeds to benefit Maui OnStage at the Historic Iao Theater. Performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.