CK McClatchy High School in Sacramento, California has produced tens of thousands of successful graduates since it opened its doors to the public in 1937. The large campus at the northern end of Land Park has churned out an impressive amount of professional athletes and politicians over the last 80 years, but very few professional stage actors.
That may change in the upcoming years with the arrival of new art and drama teacher Mollie Morrison, who has about 50 talented “Lion’s Pride Players” passionately buying into the plan that the illustrious school can become a local hub of high school theater.
On a perfect spring afternoon, just a few minutes after the bell rang to signal the end of 6th period, well over 100 people filtered into McClatchy’s Auditorium – a building that has undergone little if any renovations since it was built in the late 1930s. In the upcoming years, it will undergo a massive renovation aiming to bring it up to speed with modern entertainment venues.
Rock of Ages is a highly-ambitious musical with a ton of moving parts and portions of no less than 50 songs over the course of two fast-paced and colorful acts. Simply put, it is the equivalent of swinging for the fences when taken on by a high school drama teacher. About a half hour into the production, it was clear that Morrison and her students hit a home run.
The basic framework of the musical is the common “fresh face in Hollywood,” as Sherrie Christian arrives in Tinseltown via small-town Kansas in the late 1980s with designs of becoming the next big star. Chloe Godich sparkles as Sherrie, repeatedly displaying a smooth and hypnotic singing voice. An actor born around the turn-of-the-century cranking out classic rock ‘n roll ballads that wove themselves into the fabric of American culture in the 1980s has an inherent magic to it.
Drew Boley – played by Tylan Einwick – immediately takes a shine to Sherrie after her arrival in the fiercely-competitive entertainment capital of the world. But Drew whiffs when she shows interest in becoming something more than just a friend, a move that haunts the hopeful musician for the majority of the show.
We know this, because Lonnie Barnett tells us so. Senior Montez Carson does a great job as the essential ringmaster and part-time narrator / bartender. His energy and commitment to the role keep the play moving along at a good pace. Late into Act 1, fellow senior Robbie Shideler steals the spotlight with his daring and successful portrayal of Stacee Jaxx, a self-loving Gene Simmons-type who goes through female fans quicker than mesh T-shirts.
Every student involved in CKM’s Rock of Ages deserves to be applauded, including the many members of the technical and audio crews. The ushers were polite and attentive, and the entire production had a very progressive, inclusive and forward-thinking spirit. Grown-up humor abounds throughout the musical initially staged in 2005 in Los Angeles, and the student cast pulls off almost every line of it.
The historic CKM Auditorium is going to be under construction during the next school year, with the hopes of re-opening by 2018. This is the last theatrical production that will take place inside of its tall and sturdy walls. Combine that with impressive levels of talent and production quality, and this is a show definitely worth experiencing.
7 o’clock performances will take place on April 29, May 3 and May 4. The final matinee performance in the historic structure will take place on Monday, May 2 at 3:30.