OGDEN-The Ziegfeld in Ogden, Utah’s latest production, Rock of Ages, with a book by Christopher D’Arienzo and music by various artists of 80’s rock bands, has only been produced a handful of times here in Utah. The script is not strong and the subject matter is just rough enough that the main demographic here in Utah is likely to be offended. However, there are ways to make this show a good time, and from the moment I arrived at the Ziegfeld in Ogden, I could tell that director Cassidy Wixon-Heise had figured out just what to do.

The first and most important choice was to add a live band on stage. Music director David Knowles obviously understood that the strongest part of Rock of Ages is the rock music, and having a rock band on stage is what makes this show a good time. At the piano and conducting was Sharon Datuin, who kept the music team moving smoothly. On bass was Alek Burden, on guitar was Jake Lambros, and at the drums was Cameron Kapetanov. The inclusion of these four musicians may seem simple, but it took what would have been just a simple show and turned it into a fantastic evening. I have been known to say that live music can elevate a production, and this production was a perfect example of just that. A director can take the best element of a show, the music, and showcase it in the best way possible, by amplifying (quite literally) that best part with high quality musicians and allowing the audience to enjoy the best part of the show. I am partial to musicians, but I cannot overstate how much this production was lifted by the fact that musicians were included. It is equivalent to seeing a production of My Fair Lady that goes all out on the costumes or A Chorus Line that focuses on the choreography to great effect. I truly appreciated each time the band began to play, transporting me to a rock concert of my youth. I had attended this show with the thought that it was going to be mediocre at best, and left feeling it was quite impressive.

These musicians were matched by fantastic vocals, with some true standouts. Top among those was Mya Sanchez in the role of Justice. While the role was not one of the main in the production, from the moment she opened her mouth to sing, I was enthralled. In the second act, she is part of a production number with the song Pour Some Sugar On Me, and I may have enjoyed it more than the original. Sam Teuscher as the main character, Drew, certainly has the vocal chops to be a rock and roll star, and when he would sing, it was very entertaining. Austin Payne plays Lonny, the narrator, and his comedic timing as well as fun costuming by Ginny Teuscher was highly enjoyable. The choreography by Pidgin Haycock, who also played the delightful Franz, was a fun look back to the 80’s era, culminating in the satisfying group production number of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, which was a great combination of vocals, dance, and costume design.

The set design, by Caleb Parry, and lighting design, by Gracie Sabin, were also a big part of the ambiance of the evening. Staring at the bar and the setting, with the smoky haze and dim lighting, it was almost as if I could smell the mix of liquor and smoke and body odor. (Don’t worry, the theatre did not smell bad, it just gave me a good vibe of 80s club life). The addition of the costumes and hair of the players even added the faintest sent of aquanet, but I think that may have been because my mother was a hairdresser in the 80s.

The show is set in a 80s club with the main tropes of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and the big bag corporate coming for the little guy. As such, there is definitely an audience warning and a mature rating with this show. The show also does not go too deep into any of these things. It is a fun, silly, surface level look into all of this. It is meant to just be a rock party, and not only does director Wixon-Heise understand this, but Payne as the narrator even brings out this within the final moments of the show, reminding the audience that we were not here for the deep storyline or the moral, but for the music.

Rock of Ages plays various days through June 29th at 7:30 pm with one 2pm Matinee on June 22nd. Tickets are 24.95-26.95. For more information see zigarts.com