These ‘swingers’ happy to settle down into lead roles of ‘Rock of Ages’

“It’s time for some eyeliner, because that’s what we do here,” Brett Stoelker says, half in character as an ’80s hair-band rock god. Because how can you not be when you’re walking around in Spandex and a peroxide poodle perm?

“You want it dark, thick, with just a little of an edge out there,” he says in front of the makeup mirror, as he applies the “guy-liner” with the expertise of one who has done this every night — and a lot of nights before that.

Stoelker struts the strut like a man in silver cowboy boots should, because he has transcended the theater world’s version of an old workplace trap: being too good at your job to get promoted.

He and Paul Johnson now play off each other as “Rock of Ages” leads after learning the show inside and out, as “swings” who could step in and play three or four roles in the ’80s-rock musical to cover castmates’ days off in the show that plays the Rio six nights a week.

 

“Swings are valuable. For them to be taken out of their swing tracks and put into one lead role is actually pretty rare,” says Johnson, who worked his way across that line in February.

Both actors had stepped up on any given night to play either the fumbling nice guy Drew and the rival for his girl’s affections, a major league tool of a hair-metal rock star named Stacee Jaxx.

While playing the minor character Joey Primo, Johnson also stepped in as the show’s friendly narrator dude Lonny, and as Franz, the effeminate son of the villainous anti-rock German developer.

“You become valuable because that’s a skill set a lot of people don’t have,” Stoelker says. But it’s also why he moved on when his contract was up, his peroxide wig having hit the glass ceiling.

“This is my favorite show in the world, but that wasn’t going to help me progress at that point in time,” he says of going back to New York to get closer to Broadway auditions.

But 10 months later, Stoelker got a call at the bar he was tending in Astoria, Queens. And two days after that, he was on a plane to Las Vegas to play Jaxx full time, opposite Johnson as the new Drew at the Rio.

It turned out that the previous Jaxx, Colt Prattes, scored the Patrick Swayze role in ABC’s upcoming “Dirty Dancing” remake.

Prattes’ big break proves you never know what’s in store for the talents you see in ensemble shows such as “Rock,” where no stars are billed above the title. But Stoelker and Johnson say their odds have improved.

“The more swing credits you have on your resume the more you’re looked at as just a swing, (even if that is) somebody who is extremely useful,” Stoelker says. Once you have lead credits, casting directors will say, “Let’s see him.”

Plus, it’s more fun. “When you’re thrown in (as a swing), you’re really more concerned about your blocking and making sure you’re not running into other people, making sure your lines are right and that you’re hitting all the right notes. It’s much more difficult to really enjoy it,” Stoelker says.

And of course, playing the lead is an actor’s dream. “It sounds funny, but it kind of means that they’re trusting you with that role all the time,” Johnson says.

Johnson is a longtime Las Vegan who already had become the Strip’s version of a substitute teacher, covering vacations and illnesses in such diverse titles as “Peepshow” and “Vegas! The Show.”

But soon after “Rock of Ages” moved from The Venetian to Rio in January, contracts came up for renewal, and Johnson was encouraged to re-audition for the lead role being vacated by Justin Mortelliti.

“I guess I was just happy and honored that they offered it to me, as opposed to bringing someone else in from the outside,” Johnson says. “It’s a very special thing to kind of promote from the inside.”

Stoelker is an avowed New Yorker who says he will stay in Las Vegas only as long as the job remains, while Johnson is a Las Vegas Academy graduate who is hands-on renovating his first house, a fixer-upper.

Both have common ground in the campy show’s mix of musical theater and ’80s rock anthems. Johnson found it hard to leave the Generation Band at Paris Las Vegas, one of the few open-lounge live acts left on the Strip. “This is so much fun for me because it’s theater, but it’s still like a rock concert every night,” he says.

Stoelker was working with the British “X Factor” contestants Tenors of Rock, a vocal group that, like “Rock of Ages,” mines the melodic side of those fist-pumping chestnuts.

“I think some of these ’80s hair-band singers are probably the best vocalists of all time,” he says. “It’s something that sadly doesn’t exist anymore. These guys’ voices are absolutely incredible.”

Johnson agrees: “If you think of the slew of ’80s rock stars who could scream to the heavens, as opposed to what kids are singing these days.”

“No one’s doing it now. No rock bands have high tenor vocalists,” Stoelker laments.

“And who plays a guitar solo anymore?” adds Johnson.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like