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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Actor's Theatre Of Charlotte Invites You To Rock Out At Its Music Festival-Like Performances

Actor's Theatre of Charlotte cast members pose in "Rock of Ages" garb.
Fenix Fotography
Actor's Theatre of Charlotte cast members pose in "Rock of Ages" garb.

The problem with trying to plan anything right now is that our world can change pretty rapidly. A month ago, an indoor theatrical performance beginning this week seemed like it might have worked.

But as COVID-19 numbers in North Carolina are spiking as the delta variant spreads rapidly, Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s decision to begin its 33rd season outdoors at The Barn at MoRA with three musicals seems fortuitous.

“We took a chance that COVID was going to be waning in the summertime, but we still thought people might be a little more comfortable in an outdoor setting where distancing was easy and they weren’t depending on HVAC,” said Chip Decker, ATC’s executive director. “They could just be outside.”

And if people are going to be outside, Decker reasoned, they might as well try to recreate a music festival atmosphere.

So that’s what ATC will do with three performances, starting with “Rock of Ages,” which kicked off Wednesday and runs through Aug. 21. After that '80s rock show, “Head Over Heels,” featuring music from The Go-Go’s, will play in September. And ATC will close out its outdoor Act 1 of this season with “The Rocky Horror Show” in October.

“It's kind of like musical theater, but it also has a summer rock concert feel to it as well,” Decker said. “So we were trying to capture both those experiences. You know, it's what we do in the summer: You go and listen to music or you go and sit in the theater. Well, we're going to do both. We're going to have people who are going to be rocking out with some great musicals and under the stars. We're very excited about it.”

Can you play air guitar? You'd fit right in with the Actor's Theatre of Charlotte cast of "Rock of Ages."
Fenix Fotography
Can you play air guitar? You'd fit right in with the Actor's Theatre of Charlotte cast of "Rock of Ages."

Staging three musicals required assembling a cast of not only actors but musicians — and not only musicians, but musicians who worked well with each other and were believable as a band.

“As you know, ‘Rock of Ages’ is all '80s, big hair-band, guitar-screaming solos,” Decker said. “And you need the right guitar players for that. You can't fake those guitar solos.

“There are several actor-musician types that are the complete package. They play multiple instruments. They sing, they dance, they act — which is great because we do a lot of musicals that many times the band, the music is being supplied by the actors as well as the performances.”

At these outdoor performances, Decker wants everyone to truly treat it like a musical festival. Each person will have to bring their own chair. They can grab food and drinks from a rotating cast of food trucks and beverage suppliers.

And Decker wants everyone to be loud.

“Indoors, people tend to be a little reserved,” he said. “But I think outdoors, I want to hear people singing Poison and singing, ‘Come on, feel the noise.’ You know, I want that. I want the audience to just forget themselves and have a great time for a couple hours. And if they want to sing along with their favorite song, by all means, I think they should.”

WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment email newsletter, Tapestry, will keep you in the loop on arts and culture in the Charlotte region.

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Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.