We’ve all heard the saying, “age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” Well, that’s never been more true than in “Rockin’ with the Ages 3,” a fantastic new musical running until May 1 at the Victory Theatre in Burbank.
And if you’re unfamiliar with the previous two incarnations and are wondering why the play is called “Rockin’ with the Ages,” let me be the first to tell you that no one in this cast is under the age of 60. In fact, there are even a few cast members who are well into their 80s. Yet everyone in the cast still had the energy to sing and dance like they were the senior versions of Justin Bieber.
This may be the third installment in the “Rockin’ with the Ages” series, but rather than take a page from the previous two, which were primarily song-and-dance style revues, “Rockin' with the Ages 3” includes a storyline about a nightclub. Le Club Roc, as it’s called, has fallen on hard times, but we really don't know that until the end of the first act. In the meantime, we’re treated to an array of great songs that spans different genres, including rock ‘n’ roll, soul, and Mo-Town.
The show kicked off with a rousing version of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia,” performed by Ronnie (Pattie Brooks). Brooks’ sultry voice was nearly identical to Knight’s, and had I closed my eyes and just listened, I probably couldn’t have known the difference. But I’m glad I had them open because I would have missed out on the superb background singers (Vernon Ellsworth, Evelyn Stokes), who also added a light comedic touch by swaying their hips and dancing to the music. This may not have been a Gladys Knight performance, but I certainly couldn’t tell the difference.
Once the foreclosure storyline is added at the end of Act Two, we were introduced to Billy the Banker (Ruben Rabasa), who pretty much stole the show from there on out. It’s unclear whether or not Rabasa, who makes kids laugh for a living by lending his voice to Spanish-themed children’s shows on Nickelodeon, played up his heavily accented voice. But he surely knew how to use it to get the biggest laughs of the night.
Take the exchange where Ronnie comments, “You don’t sound like a Billy.” Without missing a beat, Rabasa replied, “Well, I’m adopted.”
At 73, Rabasa exhibited a comfortableness on stage that revealed a performer who’s been making people laugh professionally for decades. Even while doing his best Thriller-era Michael Jackson impression during the show’s climatic song-and-dance number, the audience couldn’t help but to cheer and clap. Rabasa turned in such a stellar performance that people seemed to forget that he worked for the bank.
There seems to be a cultural double standard when it comes to age, and there’s no greater evidence of this than in Hollywood. Sure, we prize wisdom and experience in our elders, but when it comes to performing, we’re eager to deny them roles in favor of youth and beauty. Everyone’s guilty of it, including yours truly. Kudos to the Senior Star Power Productions and The Pink Lady for producing a play like “Rockin’ with the Ages 3,” because it proves that older performers never lost the stuff that made them great to begin with. If anything, they've gotten better with age.
James Famera is a freelance arts critic based in Los Angeles.
What: “Rockin’ With the Ages 3” produced by Senior Star Power Productions and The Pink Lady (Jackie Goldberg
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday until May 1
Where: The Victory Theatre, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank
Tickets: $25 for general admission, $22 for seniors, with group rates available