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Allen Middle School rocks it out

'Jukebox musical' tells the story of small people with big dreams

William Allen Middle School presented its musical “Rock of Ages: Youth Edition” to the community for four days earlier this month.

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“It’s a jukebox musical, meaning that there’s a storyline that uses a bunch of different songs from various composers to kind of help tell a story,” explained Hope Knight, the musical’s creative and artistic director.

Set on Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Strip in 1987, “Rock of Ages: Youth Edition tells the story of Drew, a city boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, who have both traveled to L.A. to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love, according to the site for Concord Theatricals.

The love story is set against the troubles at the Dupree Room, a “legendary temple of rock ‘n’ roll excellence” under threat by developers of being torn down and replaced with a strip mall. The threats of closure bring legendary rocker Stacee Jaxx to town, an opportunity for Drew to chase his dream to rock out with the best.

“As every musical does, there’s also a romantic interest or two that evolves and then also devolves in the middle of the musical, because it’s not a musical without that,” Knight said.

Allen student Mia Ercolani played the role of Justice Charlier and student David Araten-Castillo played Stacee Jaxx. Ercolani described Charlier as an open, bold woman who likes to take care of people, specifically people who come to L.A. to pursue their dreams.

“She tells them to do what they really want,” Ercolani noted, “and even if things don’t turn out good for them, she will help them pursue anything going back home, visiting loved ones and just having a good time.”

Araten-Castillo described Jaxx as a crazy, big rocker with an amazing ego.

“He doesn’t really think about anybody besides himself, so he just bounces from one girl to another and doesn’t really care,” the student said.

Starring in the show was something that Ercolani enjoyed because of the music.

“Sad songs, yes I like those too, but definitely the big, jumpy songs make me happy,” she pointed out. “Justice would be a great role for that.”

Araten-Castillo had a different approach to his character.

“I just remember seeing clips from “Rock of Ages” – the actual movie – on YouTube,” he recalled, “and I remember seeing Tom Cruise being kind of a goofy, kind of insane Stacee Jaxx and I was like, ‘That kind of seems like me.’”

As for the show? Araten-Castillo and Ercolani looked forward to seeing the audience’s engagement with the music, and they shared what they hoped people would take away from their characters.

“Making the parents and making the audience happy is really what my goal is,” Ercolani observed. “ … When you picture Justice, you think of this mom figure, so I hope the audience can relate to that. I think Justice is a very idolizing character.

“I think what they can take away from Stacee is, obviously, he’s not really an ideal, good guy, but just don’t let your ego cloud your moral compass and just follow your heart.”

Ercolani and Araten-Castillo both agree that “Rock of Ages: Youth Edition” can help show people how to be confident and follow their dreams, but Knight mentioned a secondary theme.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” she emphasized. “There’s way more substance in the character of Justice Charlier, who in the real story is a madam. And she has a lot more to offer people than he (Stacee Jax) does as the character.”


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