You might say students and teachers at Twin Lakes Secondary School are going off the rails and jumping on a Crazy Train.
Rather than a traditional music or dramatic presentation, this year’s ambitious theatre arts production at the local high school is, in essence, a high-octane rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza.
“It’s a rock concert circa 1985,” enthused Christina Bosco, the music director of Thunder Rock. “There will be videos happening with every song, singers will come out into the audience, there’s great choreography and dancing … it’s a really cool, high-energy show.”
The 10 singers, backed by a tight, five-member band, will sing “hair metal hits” from the 1980s that include classics such as AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train, Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, Night Ranger’s Sister Christian and many other raucous rock songs.
Fiona Launchbury will channel her inner Brian Johnson of AC/DC fame when she tackles the band’s signature tune, Thunderstruck.
“I really love signing and I just thought it would be so cool to be able to put on a rock show,” said the Grade 10 student with the soft voice that is transformed into a powerful presence on the stage. “I’ve typically done musicals in the past, so this was a unique opportunity to do something totally different.”
She said it was a challenge to learn the 80s hits and to become, at least on stage, a rock star.
“In a musical, you’re telling a story and you’re acting,” she explained. “Here, you have a band to back you up and you’re just having fun as a singer, doing a ballad or a power song. You just want everyone to sign along … it’s really different.”
While the singers are the stars of the show, you can’t do heavy metal hits justice without a rockin’ group of musicians.
“This band is top notch,” said Bosco. “These musicians are just unstoppable; they love the challenge. They just take it and go. It’s important to know none of them had any sheet music for any of this – just lyrics and chords.”
Grade 12 student Atsushi Ikeda, the lead guitarist in Thunder Rock, said the band has a come a long way since it first started practicing in November.
“From humble beginnings in the music room, where we were just sort of figuring out the bits and pieces of the songs themselves, to getting to this point now where we have everything on stage, all the lights going, it’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun,” Ikeda told OrilliaMatters.
Ikeda said he’s never been a big fan of ‘80s rock. “But I saw it as a nifty challenge – a way to learn something,” he said. “It’s very easy to think of rock and roll as easy radio-filler music that’s not sophisticated. But to get it right and to make it sound good … it’s hard.”
For a youth who likes jazz, folk, hip hop and electronic music, “it’s been a really good learning experience.” He said he has also gained an appreciation for the music featured in Thunder Rock. “It’s simple, but that’s not a bad thing. I listen with a different ear now.”
Bosco said it’s been gratifying to see how far the group behind the project has come. Many of them had very little knowledge of music from the 1980s prior to getting involved in Thunder Rock.
“We started working on this in October and now, they look like 80s rock stars, they have the attitudes … they are all incredible,” she said. “I think people are going to be blown away.”
She said she is inspired by how much work the students have invested. “It’s pretty inspirational seeing young kids do what professional musicians do,” she said. “They don’t do it for the money … they do it because they love to perform and that’s awesome.”
In addition to the 10 singers on stage, who are backed up by a five-member band, a crew of 10 teachers have been shepherding the process. In addition, 10 students from the school’s technology department, six students from the cosmetology program and others have pitched in to ensure the show is a success.
There will be two matinee performances of Thunder Rock this week aimed at elementary school students from Twin Lakes’ feeder schools. They will follow that up with their two public shows – April 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults and are available at the school office or by calling 705-325-1318.