Civic Players set for debut State Theatre performance with 'Rock of Ages'

Jul. 6—Get ready to rock, Logansport. The Civic Players are bringing the hair metal hits of the 1980s to The State Theatre stage this weekend.

From Europe's "The Final Countdown" to Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," the Civic Players of Logansport will make it feel like 1987 again when they perform "Rock of Ages" Friday through Sunday.

It's the second summer in a row the Civic Players have brought a jukebox musical to the stage. In 2022, they performed "Leader of the Pack: The Ellie Greenwich Story," a biographical musical about how Ellie Greenwich wrote some of the most popular songs in music history.

The modern jukebox musical phenomena started with the ABBA-inspired "Momma Mia!" in 1999.

Since then, jukebox musicals have been created from the music of artists as varied as Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Carole King and David Bowie.

"Rock of Ages" uses the greatest hits from hair metal's glory days and is set in a fictional bar named Dupree's Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

Chris Miller, who plays bar owner Dennis Dupree, said the setting was inspired by the historical Whiskey A Go Go, the famous L.A. bar that was a starting point for many famous bands. The Doors were the bar's house band for a time. Legends like Elton John and Led Zeppelin took the stage, 1970's punk rockers like The Stooges (featuring Iggy Pop) and X performed and, of course, hair bands like Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses, too.

It's at Dupree's Bourbon Room where Sherrie Christian (played by Natalie Baldini), newly arrived from Kansas with big dreams, meets Drew Boley (Brenton Hathaway) and a possible relationship is foiled when rock star Stacee Jaxx (Chris Brummitt) enters the picture.

"Things happen along the way to Sherrie to make her end up in a different place in life than where she thought she would end up, let's put it that way," Baldini said.

And that brings up the second part of the plot. Jaxx is back at the Bourbon Room, the place where he got his start, to perform his last show with his band before going solo. He's there to help Dupree save the bar from economic developers (and also because Dupree has some dirt Jaxx would prefer the public not know).

For Baldini, "Rock of Ages" marks her first leading role in a musical.

"It's a lot of singing," she said. "I've never sang this much in a musical before. I've done a lot of singing and dancing at home, practicing on my own."

The show offers plenty of firsts for the Civic Players. There are new faces, a large cast of nearly 30 actors and its first musical performance in the historic State Theatre.

While the McHale Performing Arts Center is a beautiful facility for theater, the State Theatre is the perfect home for "Rock of Ages."

"This is our first time taking a leap of faith and having a musical down at the State Theatre," said assistant director Sabrina Click. "So (those in attendance) aren't only going to be supporting the Civic players, they are going to be supporting the Theatre."

Baldini described the location as having a rocker vibe and Emma Click, who plays a protester named Regina, said State Theatre was the perfect home for the musical's songs.

"We didn't have to do too much to the set to make this play feel like it belongs in this venue," Sabrina Click said.

One of the advantages of State Theatre is that it allows the actors to get closer to the audience. While a live band performs on the stage, a lot of the acting takes place on the floor in front of the stage. The Civic Players have set up their own bar for the performance (the actual State Theatre bar will be open before the performance and during intermission).

Sabrina Click said that closeness to the audience is great because there is a lot of interaction in the performance.

Director Lorien Stair-Spicer said, unlike at McHale, the State Theater does not have a green room or a backstage where the cast can go when they aren't on stage. So the cast is out with the audience for most of the show, mingling in the fictional bar, singing in ensembles at the sides of the stage or sitting with the audience.

"My goal is to get the audience participating with us," Stair-Spicer said. "I would love to see the audience singing back to us and actively involved in their seats."

Some of that interaction will come from Dillon Odom, who portrays Lonny, the play's narrator, or dramatic conjurer as the character refers to himself.

Born in 2003, Odom said he was not familiar with a lot of the songs in the musical.

While one of the youngest cast members, Odom grew up as an actor in the Junior Civic Theater and on the Pioneer High School stage. This is his first performance since playing the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" in last summer's Junior Civic Theater production.

"After Junior Civic Theater I didn't think I would be able to be on stage again and enjoy the love of theater, the people, the environment," he said. "But when I was reached out to about this, I immediately didn't hesitate. It was the perfect opportunity to open myself up to a new environment, new people and a new stage. For me, it was a no brainer. I love what I do. And I love the people I do it with."

Chris Brummitt will also take the stage for the first time with the Civic Players, getting to grab hold of the microphone and strike all the classic rock star poses as Jaxx.

"(Jaxx is) basically the cocky antagonist," Brummitt said. "He's the bad guy without realizing he's the bad guy."

Brummitt grew up acting but got away from it as he grew older. He realized he had the time and opportunity to give it another go.

He said he was terrified at first but the Civic Players had been very welcoming and helpful.

"Lorien is one of the best directors I've ever met by far," he said. "She is very dedicated and she is able to stay stern and be a nice person at the same time. That is very rare for people."

Miller was quick to remind families that, much like a Warrant music video, "Rock of Ages" isn't family friendly.

"I would just want everyone to understand again that this is really a rated R event," he said. "I know a lot of kids who are in high school and middle school who I would dissuade from attending. But everyone else I encourage wholeheartedly to attend."