Curtain call for Rock of Ages
Fifth annual show packs CATS March 11
Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017 06:00 am
The jam-packed Cultural Arts Theatre audience sat in anticipation as a disco ball reflected light around the auditorium.
The curtains open, revealing two men in toques squinting out at the audience — Bob and Doug McKenzie, of SCTV fame, jab each other and discussing the merits of long underwear and welcome the crowd to the show.
Suddenly, a makeshift DeLorean roars onto the stage and Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown emerge, revealing the show has been cancelled by a case of the mumps.
They then decide to travel back through time to revisit the past four years and before the audience can blink, Elvis is standing centre stage singing karaoke with Ellen DeGeneres.
And with that, the final chapter of Rock of Ages played out March 11. The sold-out show, which over its five-year run has raised over $18,000 for the theatre is the brainchild of junior high drama teacher Jerry Buchko.
“About six years ago, I was teaching Grade 9 Drama, and their project was air guitar,” he explained.
“Then we performed for the junior high and I noticed parents and grandparents were showing up. Some substitute teachers told me to phone them even though they weren’t teaching that day so they could watch.
“I figured if adults are showing up to watch kids perform, they’d probably show up to watch adults perform. So I threw the idea to my wife and she thought I was just cracked. She said, ‘Who would pay to watch adults lip-sync?’
“We’ve sold out every year,” he added flashing a grin.
With teachers swinging off ropes, caricatures of rock stars and even an appearance by the U.S. president Donald Trump, who ensured the audience his wall would prevent Libyan nationalists from killing Doc like in the original Back to the Future, the two-hour show turned into a four-hour epic.
While the Back to the Future theme was a new twist, the songs were the crew’s favorites from the last four years.
Twenty performers switched costumes for 19 acts, assisted by a backstage crew of six and four technicians.
“It was a ton of fun to put this together. The audience was just laughing and into every song,” said Buchko, adding that the crew was motivated by keeping the theatre in operation.
“CATS was huge in this. We made them a lot of money and we brought them back to life.”
Unfortunately for the audience, it truly was the final countdown. Buchko noted that after five years the team was is in need of a recharge.
“It’s our final season,” said Buchko. “It’s hard to end things with a sold-out show, but we’re just fresh out of ideas and we, the teachers, need to take a break.”
He added that the group may revisit the idea in a few years when they had a chance to regroup, but didn’t make any promises.
However, those who missed the show need not despair. Rock of Ages 5 will be conducting an encore performance for the Rotary Convention in April.
“We got asked if we could do the entertainment for the Rotary Convention on April 7,” said Buchko.
“That was pretty sweet. They have no idea what they’re in for.”