It’s been a number of years since Jeppe has chosen a musical as its major production, so this year’s staging of Rock of Ages, inspired and adapted from the 2012 screenplay by Chris D’ Arienzo, was an ambitious project. It took many hours of hard work by everyone involved, but it happened last week, and it was a huge success.
There was a cast of 42 boys and girls– the girls were from Jeppe High School for Girls – along with a backstage and technical crew, a vocal coach and Ms Bronwen Kemp and Ms Elzanne Dietrich, the staff members who led the project. They have been preparing, according to Ms Kemp, the school’s teacher in charge of drama and the show’s director, since the end of January.
“We began working on the vocals under the guidance of vocal coach Dylan Hayes then and spent every Sunday afternoon on that,” she said. “We then recorded the songs and sang along to them in the actual production, which is pretty standard practice to avoid the risk of someone getting sick or not being able to sing on the night.”
From the beginning of the third term they began with proper rehearsals, culminating in the three performances last week. “The hall wasn’t full on the first night, but the second two were sold out,” Ms Kemp said.
The feedback was amazing. “Someone said that it was a walk in another world, which was exactly what we were aiming for. We wanted to take the audience on a journey, and to do so through the power of the performance. The staging was minimalistic in terms of sets and costumes, we wanted the acting and singing to carry it,” Ms Kemp said.
Most of the boys were involved in the competitive drama season in the second term which was very intense. The musical was supposed to allow them to have some fun. “They were expected to perform at a very high level in those play competitions, so this was an opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy themselves,” Ms Kemp said.
“Having said that, we were blown away at the level of commitment and dedication that we got from the boys and girls. We didn’t have that much time once we got into full rehearsal but they worked incredibly hard and they pulled it off.
“They showed incredible heart, in typical Jeppe fashion, and immediately after the final show, the gala evening – at the end eight month’s worth of practicing and three performances – they pulled together and cleared the hall, getting it ready for school on Monday morning before they went home.”
Jeppe old boy Josh Pike was the technical manager and he recorded the voices. The choreography was by Destiny Boys – the Jeppe Dance Society – and they were the male dancers in the cast.
“It was an amazing educational experience for the boys and girls involved and the main lesson they learned was that if you have a dream and you work hard at it, you can make it come true,” Ms Kemp concluded.