Dust off those legwarmers, brush out your mullet and get your best rock poses ready, Ballarat… The 80s rock musical Rock of Ages is heading your way, with auditions just around the corner!

Rock of Ages opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 7 April 2009 and closed at the Helen Hayes Theatre on 18 January 2015, making it the 27th longest running Broadway show with 2,328 performances.

It had a more troubled production run in Australia however. Newtheatricals premiered the Australian version, staring Amy Lehpamer (soon to be seen as Maria in The Sound of Music) and Justin Burford, at the Comedy Theatre Melbourne in April 2011, where it ran until November before moving to a short lived season at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane. Tickets had been sold for a Sydney season but before the production had even left Melbourne, the Sydney season was postponed indefinitely due to the ‘current economic environment’. And it hasn’t been seen in Australia since…

Until now, that is! The Ballarat Lyric Theatre managed to snag the first amateur staging rights to Rock of Ages in Australia (before the rights were mysteriously withdrawn – possible professional production on the horizon, possibly?) and is set to open in 2016 at the beautiful Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Rock of Ages is a feel-good jukebox love story, told throug iconic songs of the 80s: “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “High Enough”, “The Final Countdown”, “We Built This City” and “More Than Words” by hit rockers Foreigner, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Poison, Starship, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake and many more.

Theatrepeople recently spoke to director Stephen O’Neil and President of the Ballarat Lyric Theatre Dr. Michael Whitehead about their adventure back to the 80s.

“Wow, how lucky (and hyper-excited) we are to have ‘hooked’ the amateur premiere rights to Rock of Ages before they [were] withdrawn!” said Dr. Whitehead. “The enthusiasm of the committee and the “dream” creative team of Stephen O’Neil, Andy McCalman and David Harford has been echoed by all who heard that we will produce it in 2016.”

O’Neil repeats this sentiment. “I’m very excited to be directing Rock of Ages as it will be my first amateur premiere and a very different show to others I have directed in the past. My shows (Phantom, Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Boy From Oz) have all been heavy on the drama side and Rock of Ages will allow me to finally direct a comedy.”

Image taken from the Broadway production.

Image taken from the Broadway production.

We asked both O’Neil and Dr Whitehead about their advice for any performers wanting to audition for RoA.  “Applications to audition have come from within and beyond our region and we welcome anyone wanting to belt out the anthems of the ’80’s to come along and join us!”, said Dr Whitehead.

Wondering if you have what it takes to be in the Rock of Ages cast? O’Neil and the team are looking for a cast with strong rock belts, which is a little outside a traditional music theatre performer, but they would expect they still have experience in acting and dance.

“Finding rock singers who can act, dance and have a great sense of comedy might be a little tricky if I just stalk them in pubs! Although that does sound like fun!” commented O’Neil.

Rehearsals will start at the end of September and are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons, extending to Sunday nights when the season gets closer.

“Generally I try and schedule ensemble numbers for the Sunday and principal numbers during the week,” O’Neil expanded. Even though all rehearsals will be in Ballarat, perfomers from all the region are welcome and encouraged to audition. “There will be opportunities for car pooling as all of the creative team are Melbourne based and will be travelling up for rehearsals.”

What is O’Neil’s favourite part of the audition process?  “I love it when people are prepared! Walk in, introduce them, tell me what they are singing and then get into it. Part of the audition brief is an 80’s power ballad. I will be in heaven. Don’t be put off if I start singing along.”

So, if you’re an 80s rock music lover, want to have nothing but a good time and to know what love is, you should hit Lyric with your best shot and apply for an audition by checking out the info at this link!


Footnote: In case you haven’t been able to tell by reading this article or some of my previous Theatre People articles, Rock of Ages is one of my all time favourite musicals. I first saw the show on Broadway in October 2009 and it was love at first sight. I saw the production in Melbourne 35 times and have seen the show in total 45 times. I’m so excited that it is getting a new lease on life in Australia and wish Ballarat Lyric Theatre all the best of luck in the audition, rehearsal and staging process. I’m looking forward to writing many more articles about this production.