The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Rock of Ages cast. Courtesy photo.

See Rock of Ages

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: March 4 through March 26
Tickets: $25-$45
Contact: 668-5588,

New England premiere
Palace Theatre rocks on with Rock of Ages

By Kelly Sennott

 Artistic Director Carl Rajotte has been excited about the Palace’s upcoming Rock of Ages since the theater announced this season’s lineup last summer. 

“This is the New England professional premiere of Rock of Ages. Boston has had the tour, but they haven’t produced it — we’ll be the first ones,” Rajotte said between rehearsals last week, sitting in the conference room and sporting his standard jeans and hoodie. “That’s why it’s very exciting.”
The jukebox musical rights are newly available to regional companies, and to Rajotte’s knowledge, only two or three other theaters nationwide have done it so far. The Palace’s January auditions were packed with people, and the artistic team saw 600 actors in two days. They were looking for a cast of 15 who had cords of steel, people who could “scream sing.” 
“This is that hair-band rock music. I needed to make sure they could last for four shows and sing 30 songs,” Rajotte said. “When [other] theaters produce Rock of Ages, they’ll be at the front of the line because they’ll have experience with it.”
Rock of Ages first went  up in Los Angeles in 2005 and is built around classic rock hits from the 1980s by Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Pat Benatar, among others. The story is about a small-town girl and a city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip to pursue their Hollywood dreams (and know what love is) in this world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. 
“This is my music. I love this music. I love the hair band feel, and I love choreographing this kind of stuff,” Rajotte said. “All that fantastic music is wrapped around a love story, and a story about thinking you might know about what your ultimate goal or achievement you want to be is but, in the end, you find out it’s really about the people who make you happy, and not about becoming rock stars or famous actors.”
Rajotte thinks the musical is extremely funny, better than the movie. It’s crammed with ’80s references, and unlike traditional musicals, these songs will be performed with microphones and what Rajotte calls “flash and trash” — concert lights, stage fog and hair-blowing fans. 
“My concept is that, every time we hit a song in the show, it becomes like an MTV music video from the ’80s. So I’ve done a ton of research looking at those and … trying to put them on stage in our way,” Rajotte said.
The choreography is sexy, and so are the costumes, with bright colors and lots of spandex. Hair will be big and crimped and mulleted, and everyone will wear makeup, even the guys. The whole stage will be a 1980s bar (that can also turn into a mayor’s office and strip club), with TVs all over the place. Palace Assistant Technical Director Doug Dion has been working for months designing.
The show contains a handful of Rock of Ages alumni, including one from the national tour and a couple who performed on the Norwegian Cruise Line. Audiences will also see a familiar face — 26-year-old Missy Clayton, a Manchester native and alum of the Palace Youth Theatre and Teen Company.
“She’s a stripper in the show,” Rajotte said. “All the ladies play strippers. … But she’s a crowd favorite from around here. She’s back for this one show. … I love to bring her back as much as I can. … I’m not so much a teacher anymore, but they know my expectations are high, so it’s good.”
Clayton’s brother Max is on Broadway, and her best friend from the program, Kaleigh Cronin, is also on Broadway.
“The one thing we always say is how lucky we were as kids to have this program. Everyone we worked with didn’t get these opportunities at such a young age,” Clayton said via phone.
Clayton lives in New York City, though her most recent projects involved acting and dancing in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania. The last time she came back to the Palace was for 2014’s Divas through the Decades.
“It’s like a dream to come back. It’s my family, my home theater,” she said. 

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