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EPISD students stage smash musical 'Rock of Ages'

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(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT -- July 17, 2019) — EPISD Fine Arts takes a road trip back to the 1980s on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip this summer as they stage “Rock of Ages” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at Bowie High School.

From the moment the production begins to the “Don’t Stop Believin’” finale, expect hit after hit of legendary 80s classics guaranteed to take the audience back to 1987.

“It’s going to be an amazing show,” said Chapin junior Ariayana Anaya, who plays the female lead, Sherrie.” It has something for everyone, and I think that the audience will appreciate what we’ve done.”

Anaya’s character is a wannabe actress who hails from Kansas. She falls for Drew, an aspiring rock star who works as a busboy at the Bourbon Room. It is Anaya’s first experience with the annual summer musical, but she enjoys singing the familiar songs.

“My mom is love with 80s music,” she said. “It’s all she ever listens to, so I grew up listening to it.”

The show is expected to be particularly appealing to the parents in the audience. 

“The adults are going to enjoy it because it has a bunch of 80s songs that were popular when they were our age and going through some of the things our characters were going through,” said 2019 Austin grad Dante Salcido, who plays Drew. 

Over the years, fine arts has staged classics such as “The Pajama Games,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “My Fair Lady” but last year began opted to go a bit more modern with the smash Broadway and film hit “Hairspray” and continued this new tradition with its 34th summer musical.

“We’ve done almost all of the classics,” said fine arts director Phillip Barraza. “This year, there was a demand to do something new and different, so we went with new, back to the 1980s with ‘Rock of Ages.’”

Barraza spent some of his afternoons on stage with the cast during rehearsals, choreographing the numbers. He proudly stood below the stage watching as the cast belted out its rendition “It’s the Final Countdown.” 

“There’s a lot going on here,” Barraza said. “We have students learning costuming, students sharpening their rock guitar skills, and students sharpening their singing, dancing and acting skills. And we cannot forget our tech crew that is learning to use the lighting.”

The summer musicals are known for the combination of districtwide talent that comes together year after year to bring a show to life.

“The summer musical brings out the best actors, singers, and musicians – culminating in one EPISD production,” Barraza said.

Salcido sums up the summer musical best with a sports analogy: “In sports, we have an all-star game and for theater in EPISD, we have summer musical and that’s really cool.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy