It was the decade of big hair and even bigger rock anthems. The ’80s created the soundtrack of a generation and inspired some of the most recognizable fashion trends from the business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back mullet to the gravity-defying architecture of the Aquanet bangs.
Rock of Ages celebrates the decade in all its glory with a special 10th anniversary tour. Jacksonville native Mark LaDuke is a featured member of the ensemble cast who’s hitting all the right notes with the score of 80’s classics. The musical production is staged for one performance only on January 10th at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts (www.artistseriesjax.com).
“It’s incredible. It’s been great. We started the tour back in October in Boston. Everything is going really well, and everyone is staying healthy,” says LaDuke. “We have a very different cast from the previous tours. The show is a lot of fun.”
The tour is directed by Martha Banta and choreographed by Janet Rothermel, with a book by Chris D’Arienzo and arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp. Rock of Ages revisits the larger-than-life characters (and hair!) that earned Rock of Ages five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. The show was also made into a major motion picture in 2012 starring Mark Wahlberg, Tom Cruise, and Jennifer Aniston.
Rock of Ages transports audiences back to 1987 on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip where small-town Sherrie meets a big-city rocker Stacee Jaxx. The pair fall love in L.A.’s most famous rock club on the Sunset Strip to the soundtrack of 80’s staples like Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister and Whitesnake–despite the show’s title, the Def Leppard song of the same name didn’t make the cut.
LaDuke isn’t old enough to remember back when artists like Pat Benatar and Twisted Sister dominated MTV, but the accomplished vocalist is excited for the opportunity to perform the big rock numbers. “The opener is really fun, but it’s really exhausting,” he says of the number which features a medley of Poison’s ‘Nothin’ But a Good Time’ and Quiet Riot’s ‘Cum on Feel the Noise.’
“I’ve always gravitated toward rock music. It’s interesting to kind of get a taste of what it was like to live in the 80’s from a music and stylistic standpoint as far as what they’re wearing and where they go to in L.A.. I have really enjoyed the process,” he says.
While most of the action in Rock of Ages takes place on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, LaDuke has followed his dreams from Los Angeles across the world, where he’s performed in such exotic locations as China and Singapore. When he relocated to Los Angeles to attend Berkeley, he initially worked as an executive assistant for the Osborne family before moving on to session work as a singer.
LaDuke earned the Golden Ticket in the 2013 season of American Idol, which helped prepared him for a turn in musical theatre. He earned his first role last fall appearing in Legally Blonde and The Little Mermaid before he auditioned for Rock of Ages.
“I’ve been a singer my whole life. I did [American] Idol like five or six years ago, then I moved out to L.A.. I kind of discovered musical theatre last year, and it’s been my consistent job for the last year and a half,” he says. “I took an acting class, and just fell in love with it. It was definitely a drastic switch. I’m very fortunate.”
It’s a lot of hard work and high notes, but LaDuke is thrilled to perform the show in his hometown. He’s looking forward to reconnecting with friends including his mentor and vocal coach Lorna Greenwood whom he studied under for seven years before leaving Jacksonville.
“She is like family to me, so I will definitely be seeing her,” he says. “I am so excited. I was just talking today to a few of my friends who are coming. It’s very strange. I’m 31, and I left Jacksonville when I was 22, so it’s very strange to be coming back and performing at the theater I used to go to a lot. I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”