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Long hair, loud guitars for Port Coquitlam high school musical

Tickets to Rock of Ages at Riverside secondary (2215 Reeve St., Port Coquitlam) are $12/$10 at the door on show night
Austin Dawe, Meg Ursaki, Jeffrey Luong, Maraya Franca and Riley Garrett star in the upcoming musical Rock of Ages at Riverside secondary school in Port Coquitlam.

For at least two teen actors at Port Coquitlam’s Riverside secondary, Rock of Ages is the perfect send-off in their graduating year.

The 2005 rock/jukebox musical tells the story of a small-town girl wanting to make it big— kind of the same story for the two female leads in the high school production that opens next week.

Best friends Maraya Franca and Meg Ursaki have stars in their eyes when they talk about Sherrie, the character they were double-cast to play by drama teacher and director Nicole Roberge.

Sherrie is “a dreamer and leaves for Los Angeles to be an actor, without the support of her parents,” Franca explained. “We can both relate to her because she’s so free and fun.”

The pair both auditioned for the role last fall and were thrilled to be chosen together, said Ursaki who portrayed a nun in last year’s Anything Goes. “She’s a girl with a big dream and that’s what we have, too. We can’t wait for university and see what happens in our future.”

The girls, who both have applications in with Simon Fraser University to study acting in September, say this year’s musical is one of the best, incorporating 54 cast members in grades 10 to 12 plus sets from students in a new school program called PAL.

Roberge said she picked Rock of Ages to reflect her actors’ bubbly personalities. 

And she expects their parents will be singing along as the songs are from their generation: music from Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Van Halen and REO Speedwagon, for example.

“The cool part of Rock of Ages is the mashed-up songs,” Roberge said during a rehearsal last week. “You can have one song that’s three power ballads.”

Set in the Ronald Regan-presidency year of 1987, Rock of Ages opened in New York City in 2005 and closed a decade later, making it the 27th-longest running show in Broadway history after more than 2,300 performances. 

Five years ago, it was made into a movie starring Julianne Hough as Sherrie, with mixed reviews.

Franca, who was Bonnie in Anything Goes and in the ensemble for In The Heights in 2015, said Riverside has “high-schoolized” the content to make it more family friendly. Still, “we haven’t taken away from the story,” she said.

Roberge said the students have poured their heart and soul into the musical, adding 100 extra hours to their schedule after school, including on Family Day weekend. 

“We haven’t gotten home before 8 p.m. in the past two weeks,” Franca said with a shrug, however, “because we’re such a large cast, we’re like a family. This has been a very special place for us lately. I’ll be sad to see it go after grad.”

• Tickets to Rock of Ages at Riverside secondary (2215 Reeve St., Port Coquitlam) are $12/$10 at the door on show night. It runs Feb. 23 to 25 and March 1 to 3. Choreography is by Nicole Roberge and Shelby Simmons (class of 2015) and musical direction is by Krista Wallace.