Get ready to rock out with power ballads from the 1980s. UW Tacoma’s theater program has partnered with Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT) on the jukebox musical “Rock of Ages.” The show uses well-known, popular songs to “tell the story of a small-town girl, a city boy, and a rock ‘n’ roll romance on the Sunset Strip.”
“Rock of Ages” represents a milestone for UW Tacoma’s emerging theater program. “This is our first musical,” said Associate Teaching Professor Maria-Tania Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “We originally planned to perform the musical 'Next to Normal’ back in 2020 and were completely ready to open, but then the pandemic hit and we had to cancel, which was devastating for everyone involved.”
“Next to Normal” had a small cast of about six performers. “We have 26 performers in this show, including eight UW Tacoma students,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “That’s just the cast. Once you add up the stage managers, lighting techs, the choreographer and everyone else there are about 40 people helping make this happen.”
Counted among that number is UW Tacoma Part-Time Lecturer Kim Davenport who serves as the show’s musical director. “She’s an amazing musician and really knows how to connect with the cast,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden.
Bandes Becerra Weingarden directs the show. “This is not my first musical, but I think this is the biggest cast I’ve ever had,” she said. “My blocking guide is just this maze of initials of who’s on what part of the stage.”
Besides the eight UW Tacoma students acting in the show, there are many more working behind the scenes. “One of our stage managers is a former student and the other stage manager is a current student,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “We also have a student doing some of the lighting design. He also did some of the lighting on ‘Happiest Song’. This time around he’s doing more of the creative work, not just the mechanics. That development is just really exciting to see.”
Students involved in the show, whether as performers or as crew, gain valuable experience. ”One of the ways we do this is by assigning mentors to both cast and crew,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “For example, two of the community cast members are working with the student performers.”
The show opens in March. Performances will be held at the Tacoma Little Theatre, but rehearsals are taking place at two locations on campus. “We are using space in Cherry Parkes and Keystone,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “I really like this approach because we’re bringing the community to campus and inviting them to get to know us.”
At some point in mid-to-late February, the rehearsals will include a live band. “There will be a band in the show and they won’t be in the orchestra pit,” said Bandes Becerra Weingarden. “They will be on stage providing accompaniment to the performers.”
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