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11 May 2017

The '80s Are Back (for Two Weekends): Five Things to Know About Palm Canyon Theatre's 'Rock of Ages'

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A scene from Palm Canyon Theatre's Rock of Ages. A scene from Palm Canyon Theatre's Rock of Ages. Paul Hayashi

By the time mid-May comes along, most valley theater companies are about to close their curtains on major productions until the fall—if they have not done so already.

However, such is not the case at the Palm Canyon Theatre. This weekend, the downtown Palm Springs mainstay will open one of its most complex shows of the season for a seven-show run.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Rock of Ages, either on the stage or on the big screen. The homage to 1980s rock opened in Los Angeles in 2005, before moving Off-Broadway in 2008, and to Broadway itself in 2009; the show would not close until almost six years later. In the midst of that epic Broadway run, a film version hit screens in 2012, with Julianne Hough playing the transplant from Oklahoma with big dreams, and Tom Cruise playing egotistical rock star Stacee Jaxx.

Now, the epic show is coming to the Palm Canyon Theatre. I recently spoke to the show’s director and choreographer, Andrea Bellato. She’s a veteran of about a dozen Palm Canyon productions, ranging from Hairspray to West Side Story to Legally Blonde; she’ll also appear in Rock of Ages as part of the ensemble. Here are five things you should know about the show.

1. Rock of Ages marks the directing debut for Bellato. Bellato is a 2011 graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles with a fair number of shows under her belt as both an actress and a choreographer—but she’s never taken the helm of a play before. How’s the experience been?

“It’s been great,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but I have such a great cast. They came in with great ideas for their characters and were ready to just go for it.”

She said Rock of Ages was the perfect show for her as a first-time director.

“To be honest, I feel like I was pretty prepared for this show,” she said. “I love ’80s rock music so much, so doing this has felt natural to me.”

2. The cast is freaking huge—23 people huge, to be exact. There are nine named roles, and 14 people in the ensemble. However, Bellato—who’s infectiously enthusiastic—said her great cast has made things relatively easy for her. In fact, she repeatedly heaped praise on the cast during our chat.

“I feel like a mother who’s bragging about her children all the time,” she said with a laugh.

3. If you don’t like musicals, or are new to musicals, Rock of Ages is still worth your time. Bellato said the show is often liked by people who don’t like musicals for good reason.

“The show is, top to bottom, full of energy, and it’s so much fun,” she said. “It’s a party, and the audience can sing along. In a way, it’s an anti-musical. We actually make fun of musicals in it. People who don’t know musical theater can come in and enjoy it. … It’s like a rock concert mixed with a lot of comedy.”

4. The show came together pretty quickly. Bellato said the cast began rehearsals only about a month ago; fortunately, things have come together, she said, although it has been a lot of work.

“There’s never enough time,” she said with a chuckle. “I want to be able to duplicate my body and do everything that needs to be done.”

5. The ’80s music in the show is pretty awesome. I asked Bellato what her favorite songs in the show are.

“I love Foreigner, so I love everything they sing,” she said. “There are two of their songs in the show, ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ and ‘I Want to Know What Love Is.’ … But the whole show is jam-packed.”

Rock of Ages will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 12, through Sunday, May 21, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $36, with discounts. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

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